Temple University’s Tuttleman Counseling Services, which has conducted its mental health services online since transitioning to a remote setting in March 2020, could offer hybrid versions of counseling in the fall semester, said Dan Dengel, interim director and associate director for training at Tuttleman Counseling.
The hybrid format depends on Temple’s campus plans for the fall semester and Tuttleman Counseling receiving approval from the Division of Student Affairs, he said.
“We are still in the process of determining how to best [accommodate] students come fall,” Dengel wrote in an email to The Temple News. “While we can’t name specifics just yet, we will likely be moving forward with a hybrid plan that combines in-person and remote services.”
Tuttleman Counseling should be able to accommodate students who want to receive their mental health services remotely or in person, and Tuttleman Counseling is working on a proposal to present to the Division of Student Affairs for Tuttleman Counseling’s program structure in Fall 2021, Dengel said.
“Maybe there’s a student who we’ve been working remotely and says like ‘This is great, could we keep it going?’ We should be able to do that,” Dengel said.
Temple announced on March 1 that classes for Fall 2021 will be held mostly in person and that it plans to open residence and dining halls, academic buildings, the Howard Gittis Student Center and athletic and recreation operations, The Temple News reported.
“We’ve heard from students how much they’ve appreciated being able to access mental health support from [Tuttleman Counseling] while they’re away from campus,” wrote Stephanie Ives, dean of students, in an email to The Temple News. “We always want to be responsive to our students’ needs and anticipate that there will continue to be a role for virtual counseling in appropriate situations.”
Tuttleman Counseling’s 30 counselors and five psychiatrists have been working remotely, and there is an on-call team of counselors that can reach out to students in crisis remotely and assign them to a clinician within 24 hours, Dengel said.
Jaclyn Kuzma, a freshman undeclared major, attended three or four virtual sessions with the Stress, Substances and Coping group.
“I feel like being online kind of get that barrier where you’re like okay if I’m upset I can turn my camera off or go to the bathroom I can turn my camera off or whatever I could just kind of sit here and like deflect,” Kuzma said.
Dengel imagines that some therapy services, like some workshops within the Resiliency Resource Center, where students can get help with general and social anxiety, depression, substance use disorder and more, may have to be in person, he said.
Tuttleman Counseling has seen 593 new students register for services from March 2020 to September 2020 and 1,433 new students register for services from September 2020 to March 2021, Dengel wrote in an email to The Temple News.
However, the number of students using Tuttleman Counseling decreased this year, Dengel said.
This drop could be for many reasons, like students who moved home during the pandemic and may be seeking treatments close to home, technology and privacy issues at home, students not needing treatment anymore or students moving out of state, which would make them ineligible to receive Tuttleman Counseling services, except in crisis situations or referrals, Dengel wrote.
Since August 2020, Tuttleman Counseling also had 28 percent of first-time Tuttleman Counseling patients say they were seeking help due to a COVID-19-related matter, Dengel wrote.
Three out of four Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 have documented declining mental health in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, PBS reported.
Emily Praul, a freshman psychology major, began Tuttleman Counseling’s one-on-one therapy sessions in October 2020 to learn how to cope with anxiety and depression, she said.
“I definitely felt like [COVID-19] made it so much worse because we were so isolated, it wasn’t the normal life that like I expected when I went to college,” Praul said.
This year, the most prominent reasons for students to seek help from Tuttleman Counseling are anxiety, depression and motivation, Dengel said.
Tuttleman Counseling has seen a 30 percent decrease in the number of students who do not show up for their appointments, Dengel said.
“I just think there’s been that ease of access,” Dengel said. “I mean, for me even students that at 9 a.m. never would have said, ‘I’m coming out of bed, I’m coming to your office,’ now will just like roll out and have a session, so it’s been nice.”
It’s important to reach out for help, especially during a time where many people feel isolated and disconnected, Dengel said.
“Students can still access quality care through what we offer and that, that accessibility is still there,” Dengel said.