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May 21, 2018 | by  | in News |
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Victoria Students Dissatisfied with Counselling Appointment Wait Periods

The average waiting period for a counselling appointment with Student Health is four weeks. There has been general student dissatisfaction with this, and Gerard Hoffman, Head of Student Health and Counselling, agrees that it is “not okay”.

Victoria University has one of the biggest counselling/mental health teams in the Wellington area, with 11 counsellors employed. Last year, over 2100 Vic students were patients. At a hospital, a similar number of professionals might only have seen 300 clients. An anonymous student said “It’s just frustrating being told you have to wait five weeks for an appointment with a counsellor, I understand that my mental health needs aren’t as urgent as some others but it kind of feels like the service isn’t valuable at all if you can’t be seen reasonably quickly. I’d rather pay to go to an outside therapist, because in five weeks I’m not going to be dealing with the same issues.”

Another student was resigned to the reality of this, and said that wait times for counselling “w[ere]n’t too bad” as he “only had to wait a few weeks” from booking a counselling session to seeing a counsellor. When he did see a counsellor, however, he mentioned it was “really effective [at] giving me some short term solutions to what I was feeling”.

Student counselling services have also been steering away from making external referrals. Hoffman has reasoned that services like Evolve and Wellington Women’s Health Collective are amazing, but really under resourced, and “in reality can only see small numbers of young people”.

Student Counselling is fully funded by the student services levy. Hoffman said that Student Health could get more counsellors if given [more money] from the Government or VUW. However, he believes that hiring more counsellors won’t solve the problem of long wait times, as their intake rate would just go up.

In comparison, there is no wait time for counselling at Otago University’s student health clinic. Currently, students can book in for same day appointments with their MHS team, which is a group of mental health clinicians. If the student requires counselling then they are given an appointment with one of the counsellors – typically for the following week after that initial appointment (depending on urgency). The Otago University structure for Student Health and counselling services is a Clinical Group, which differs from Vic as they don’t market themselves as a counselling specific service.

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