University Counseling Service meets increased demand in creative ways

This past spring, students created the #DoesIowaLoveMe campaign to call out shortcomings of University of Iowa systems important to them. University Counseling Service (UCS) was called out for not having enough readily available services.

Over the last four years, UCS has been on a mission, given ever increasing demand, to create a counseling service that provides as much service to as many students in the shortest amount of time possible. As such, UCS created a “levels of care” model characterized by several access points, each appropriate to the nature and urgency of students’ concerns.

Students can access service in ways that include:

1. Gotta do it now

Let’s Talk, Hawks.” Students access service by simply “dropping-in.” It can be anonymous, if desired, and is a one-time, seek support and advice service.

2. Crisis of the day

Urgencies and emergencies do not wait. Same Day, Quick Access provides students the option to call UCS on any day they feel the need for immediate intervention for unforeseen concerns that arise.

3. Not needing counseling: skill building

Not every student needs or even desires counseling. The UCS’s three-session curriculum based workshops, Anxiety Toolbox & Getting Unstuck Workshops, provide a structured, class-like setting for students to build resiliency skills for managing anxiety or depression.

4. More can be more

Group Therapy provides longer-term options for students. As everyone works, lives, eats, socializes, and goes to class in a group, counseling is also done in a group. With 28 therapy groups this past year, more and more students are seeking out group therapy for their mental health goals and are wanting to do so in the “community of care” setting that only group offers.

5. The bread and butter

Individual Therapy is what most people think of when they think of UCS. UCS sees hundreds and hundreds of students each year for individual counseling. As this is a higher level of care, it takes more time and resources. As such, there can be a wait for this service, usually no longer than two weeks at peak times each semester.

6. So much "out" there

When students have insurance, desire longer-term care or care that is more frequent than weekly, or desire expertise or a level of care outside the UCS’s scope of practice, Iowa City has many private practitioners. Case Management is a proactive service where students learn about insurance and how to access private care. Students are assisted in making contact and following through with connections with known and trusted private providers.

UCS has altered its service in many ways over the last four years, and as a result UCS saw 1,000 more students last year than it saw three years prior. Students continue to remind us in many ways that the work is not done, and University Counseling Service will continue to review its service model to best meet the mental health needs of Iowa students and the Iowa campus.

Using and generating data

In collaboration with the Program in Counseling Psychology, the UCS Research Team recently published an article examining therapist effectiveness across race with gender as an intervening variable, showing that cross-racial competence is not universal for therapists as gender makes impact on competence. Two new studies are underway examining the current state of embedded counseling models on campuses across the U.S. as well as their effectiveness. A third study currently in process is examining the impact of counseling on academic performance and retention. University Counseling Service is engaged in not only the delivery of services, but also the generation of basic and applied data to help shape mental health services on university campuses.