To help clarify some of the rumors around Columbia’s Counseling and Psychological Services, The Lion sat down with Dr. Richard Eichler, the office’s Executive Director to settle some of these myths once and for all.
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Fact or Myth: There is a 6 or 10 session maximum for students seeking CPS appointments.
Myth. There is no limit on sessions at CPS.
The academic year goes by relatively fast. To that end, our approach is short-term oriented; we want to help students identify solutions as quickly as possible so they can make the most of the academic and social opportunities on campus. There are some students who require specialized services of one kind or another or need a longer or more intensive approach. In some of those cases, students are referred to an off-campus resource. Most students, however, do get all their counseling right here at CPS; students are also welcome to return to the service later in the course of their time at Columbia if they encounter a new issue they would like to talk over.
Fact or Myth: Students are required to have a phone call with a CPS clinician before an appointment.
Fact. This is a process we developed in conjunction with student feedback several years ago and is a practice consistently used at peer institutions.
We want to connect students to a clinician as soon as possible. In order to do that, we need to understand where a student is struggling and how we can help. Part of this initial call is also to identify who on the CPS team might be the most appropriate match. Sometimes the call helps us provide immediate suggestions for care or helps to connect a student with other useful campus resources. And of course, when students are in significant distress, we make arrangements to have them seen right away.
Fact or Myth: Students can visit a CPS drop-in location without making the compulsory first call and talk to a counselor right away?
Fact. You do not need to make an appointment for a drop-in consultation. There are 5 locations in the residence halls, and an office at the Intercultural Resource Center (IRC). Just go; it’s as simple as that.
Fact or Myth: There are no resources offered to students during the summer months.
Myth. CPS is open 12 months a year. There are abbreviated summer hours (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.—we stay open until 7 p.m the rest of the year) and drop-in locations close when the residence halls are not in use, but the main office offers the same services year-round.
Fact or Myth: Students should not get involved if they feel concerned about the well-being of one of their peers.
Myth. Columbia is a community and one whose members care deeply for each other. If a student is concerned for a friend, talk to us. Call, email, come to the office. How we will help may vary depending on the situation, but the first step is to ask for support.
Fact of Myth: CPS does not have enough staff and it can be hard to set up appointments with a preferred counselor.
Myth. For the last couple of years, there was some truth to this statement. This year, CPS is adding 5 psychologists and 1 psychiatrist to our staff. I believe this will help alleviate the wait time, add to our offering of groups and workshops, and further contribute to the breadth of our already diverse team of counselors.
Fact of Myth: All CPS are licensed and receive continuous training.
Fact—with one exception. All permanent staff are licensed. New staff take part in an intensive orientation and have one-to-one supervision for a period of time. There is always a need to learn, so we also provide ongoing training for the entire CPS staff, no matter how experienced, including new developments in the field, trends and research, and topics of special relevance to college campuses and the student experience.
Each year we also accept five postdoctoral fellows from a competitive pool of applicants. Our fellows have completed all the requirements for a doctorate in psychology, including intensive clinical internships and other practicum experiences. In New York State, before being granted licensure, psychologists need to work under supervision for one more year in a setting such as ours; our fellows spend a year with us fulfilling this requirement. In return, we are able to bring on board a talented and diverse group of clinicians, many of whom ultimately join our permanent staff or become important referral resources for our students.
Fact or Myth. Students can submit questions, comments, and concerns about CPS and its services.
Fact. We take every student comment to heart. We work closely with individual students and groups to assess our services and identify areas to focus or improve.