With the popularity of student counseling services at Tuttleman Counseling Services on the rise, the center is struggling to meet appointments in a timely fashion.
Multiple students confirmed with The Temple News that they had to endure weeks-long waits, some stretching longer than a month.
“The wait may start out as just a week or two, but it increases throughout [the semester], it’s gotten as high as five or six weeks at times,” said Director of Tuttleman Counseling Services John DiMino.
Junior psychology major Patricia Boateng was among those whose appointments were delayed.
“When they initially told me [about the wait time] I was kind of stressed out,” Boateng said.
The issue caught the eye of Temple Student Government Student Body President David Lopez who said he plans on combating the issue.
“I think it’s a really big concern that needs to be dealt with,” Lopez said.
Lopez said mental health concerns have taken a front seat in the minds of Temple students in recent years, and according to the New Student Questionnaire, mental health care facilities are increasingly rising to levels of importance.
He added that if this area is of such importance to students, its rate of service needs to be improved upon.
“If we want to step up as a university, I think this is a prime area that we should be focusing on,” Lopez said.
Lopez cites poor funding and lack of staff as possibly reasons for the longer wait periods.
DiMino agreed that the two reasons could be accurate. He also cites the larger influx of students as part of the issue.
“It’s increased a lot over the years, when I first got here in 1996, I think the number was 761 students used the center and last year we had over 2,500 use the center,” he said.
In that period of time, the number of students living on and near Main Campus has dramatically increased.
DiMino said increased foot traffic in university counseling centers is a nationwide trend, and so are the struggles to accommodate the large numbers. He pinned the increased usage of university counseling services on a shift in culture and social prejudices regarding mental health issues.
“This generation has much less stigma about using mental health services, that social networking, people having very public lives, it has made it easier for people to seek out psychotherapy,” DiMino said.
DiMino said the counseling center has tried to combat the overabundance of traffic with psychology interns, fellows and additional staff members. However, the center still has not been able to keep up with the demand. He said he believes the bigger issue facing the center is how many more resources Temple can afford to give it.
“I don’t fault the university. It’s partly my job to let people know and so I’ve had these conversations and now we have to struggle with, well what can we do, how much can we grow, can we afford to give more money to it?” he said.
DiMino expressed fear that the wait times are driving students away from the counseling center. He cited a research study that he completed with a colleague from Fox School of Business about such concerns.
“If they are given an appointment within two weeks, it’s a 90 percent chance of showing, but after that it starts dropping off,” DiMino said.
The study’s final conclusion established that the longer the wait period, the less likely students are to show up, DiMino said.
Boateng said that when she first arrived at the counseling center during walk-in hours, she was told to take a test, was interviewed by an initial counselor and the seriousness of her issue was assessed.
This process is a part of the center’s triage program, which is a safety net, enabling students with serious issues to be seen right away, DiMino said.
“Serious symptoms or if they’re at risk, those people are seen right away. They’re seen within two business days,” he said.
Boateng was not one of those people and was forced to wait up to a month. However, Boateng said, that month was worth the wait.
Though she was happy with her end product and wasn’t driven away by the wait, she said she was concerned that Tuttleman has to service such a large amount of people.
“I have nothing but good things to say, it’s unfortunate that they have to service so many people,” she said.
Boateng added that while the wait period did not bother her, the center’s limited number of sessions for students did.
“To me that’s always a bigger issue, especially in counseling,” she said.
Lopez plans to attempt to combat the issues facing the center through meetings with Student Affairs.
“I would like to see more discussion and hopefully that will do something,” he said.
Cindy Stansbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.