Butler’s Counseling and Consultation Services provides mental health resources in a pandemic

CCS will be offering appointments in a virtual format. Collegian file photo.

ALISON MICCOLIS | STAFF REPORTER | amiccolis@butler.edu

Navigating the pressures of being a college student in the middle of a global pandemic can jeopardize the mental wellbeing of many students. During these challenging times, Butler’s Counseling and Consultation Services remains a resource for students to work through any mental or emotional challenges they may be facing. Their office is located in Butler’s Health and Recreation Complex and their services are free to any currently enrolled student, with the exception of psychiatric services. 

The CCS is not currently open for in-person appointments, but they are working to virtually provide the same amount and types of services they previously provided in-person. 

Steve Hines, one of the clinical psychologists on campus and assistant director of the counseling center, talked about some of the specific services his office provides. CCS provides both individual and group psychotherapy, which now involves talking virtually with a clinician to help students with mental illnesses and other needs. 

In addition to these services, they are continuing with Let’s Talk, a program that allows students to talk with one of the clinicians in a confidential way without scheduling an appointment. The clinician is in an open Zoom meeting where students can join to ask questions, meet the clinicians and get advice for specific concerns.

Hines said Let’s Talk hours are an informal way to contact CCS whether it be about a specific concern or ongoing mental health. 

Students can access the link to the Let’s Talk hours on the CCS website. There, they will find the Zoom links and more information about the program. That will bring the student to a page that shows all of the times that are available and the Zoom link to connect with the counselor. 

For students looking to schedule a meeting with a counselor, Hines encourages them to call the center’s front office staff to schedule their initial appointment. They will either speak with one of the front office administrators, or leave a voicemail and someone will contact them as soon as possible. However, in the near future, students will be able to schedule online. 

“We are trying to reduce as many barriers as possible to students accessing our services,” Hines said.

The biggest limitation for the CCS during the pandemic is their restrictions on providing ongoing services to students living in other states. 

“In order for us to provide ongoing psychotherapy services, the individual must be in the state of Indiana,” Hines said. “That is really just regulated by our licensing bodies. So I am a licensed psychologist and my license dictates that I cannot provide psychotherapy to anyone in another state because I am not licensed to practice in that state.” 

However, Hines encourages students who are currently in another state to reach out if they are struggling with something and are looking for help. They can also utilize the Let’s Talk hours to ask any questions they may have. Hines said CCS is able to help remote students connect with mental health services in their area. 

“We don’t want students feeling like they have to navigate that process on their own because that can be really hard to do,” Hines said. 

All of the counseling and consultation services on campus are confidential, and the counselors are not obligated to report any information. In addition to the three licensed psychologists, the center is staffed with masters and doctoral interns. However, they are not Butler students and they are working under the supervision of the three licensed professionals. 

“Sometimes people are worried about making an appointment because they don’t want their professor or the dean to find out or whoever it is,” Hines said. “Sometimes people don’t want their parents to find out. If somebody is not wanting anyone to know they are coming to services, unless they explicitly give us permission to disclose that, we legally cannot share that information, and we do not share that information with anyone across campus.” 

Shana Markle, a licensed psychologist and associate director of the counseling center, assured students that scheduling an appointment does not bind them to making additional appointments. 

“One of the main things for them to know is that by coming in, they are not committing to a year or four years of therapy,” Markle said. “People can come in just to meet us and get an idea of what therapy is, what it looks like, and how it might be helpful for them or not. So it is OK to come in not knowing if you want to follow through on it or not and let that decision be made after they have gotten here.” 

Senior pharmacy student Holly Westerkamp is the president of Be the Voice — the Butler chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Their club focuses on beating the stigma of suicide on campus, fundraising for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and advocating for general mental health for the Butler community. 

“Just in general, from a mental health standpoint, seeking help and therapy is pretty stigmatized,” Westerkamp said. “Even myself, I suffer from mental illness, and it took a friend sitting me down and saying ‘we are going to schedule an appointment right now’ for me to seek help. I think that is telling because even some of us who are advocates across campus have trouble.” 

Hines said he and the other CCS counselors want students to know they are here and they are available.

“We don’t want people to think that COVID has shut the counseling center down. We are up, we are doing business, and we are seeing lots and lots of folks virtually,” Hines said. “We would much prefer to be in-person, but in order to protect everyone, we are doing things virtually right now, but the goal is to be able to get back in the room as soon as possible.” 

Ben Traverso, a senior political science and history major, is a member of Be the Voice. He expressed his gratitude for having the counseling center as a resource on campus during the pandemic. 

“Right now, obviously this is a pretty stressful time in all of our lives so this is absolutely the time to utilize that resource,” Traverso said. “Even if you think you are doing OK right now, we are all struggling a little bit. COVID hits us all in different ways, but we are all struggling and understanding how we got here and how to get the best out of every day. They are there to be an ear for you to talk through your problems. It is not intimidating, they are not trying to get you in trouble, they are just trying to help you.” 

In addition to the CCS, Hines wants students to take advantage of all the other individuals on campus who are interested in the mental health of students in addition to the various resources linked in the email Frank Ross sent on Sept. 3. 

“We also want to emphasize to people that we provide the ongoing mental health treatment for students across campus, but there are a lot of people on campus that are interested in the overall mental health and well-being of our students,” Hines said. “So if you are struggling with something and you don’t feel like the counseling center is the right place to go, please find somebody on campus to talk to so that you are not struggling with that on your own.”

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