Worries expressed over revised counseling policy

While many UTD students take on multiple roles in addition to being a student, common sense tells them their lives will be stressful.

But for some students like Adrian Cook, the stresses of school and everyday life can be too much to handle alone.

An Arts & Humanities graduate student, Cook has added teaching, researching and classwork to his duties at home and as a husband.

“School is my life,” Cook said. “But, aside from that, I also have a home life. I’m lucky because I have a very stable home with a loving partner, but my wife is in graduate school too. So, you can imagine the financial situation. There is also the feeling that we have little time to spend with one another, which is often disheartening.”

Cook also suffers from anxiety, a mental disorder that affects approximately 19 million adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. To deal with his life’s pressures, Cook seeks help at the Student Counseling Center.

“My counselor says that grad school can be a formula for a mental disorder,” Cook said. “There are times that I really believe that. I know I have the talent and the drive to get my PhD, but I’m so anxious about doing my best in every aspect of my life that I sometimes get a little crazy and have to be talked down. I went to the counseling center to get some perspective and to develop coping skills to help me manage my time, my mood and my relationships…and to gain self-confidence.”

Two years ago, Cook sought counseling to help him deal with his multiple stresses. Cook said he needed the once-a-week sessions to talk through his weekly anxieties. And Cook said his counselor has helped him develop good strategies and work through time management problems.

But now, the Counseling Center is limiting access for students like Cook.

With several students seeking the Counseling Center’s help, a new policy that took effect this semester limits the number of sessions a student can seek within a semester. Under the new policy, students are limited to seven sessions per semester, about one session every two weeks for fall and spring semesters.

Although this policy is more inclusive than last year’s 10-session per year limit, students like Cook came to the Counseling Center when students had access to unlimited sessions. As part of a grandfather clause for students like Cook, the Counseling Center allowed these students to continue under the no session-limit policy until Aug. 31.

This clause was instated to help students adjust to the new session-limit rule.

Jim Cannici, director of the Student Counseling Center, said counselors are committed to helping long-term need students find alternative sources for therapy.

Such sources include group therapy held on-campus or finding other mental health providers outside the university system.

Cook is an example of a student in need of long-term services, and Cannici said he was concerned.

“That’s a group of students we’re concerned about,” Cannici said. “And this situation will affect (them). We do have a number of students who would fall in that category. We try to find alternative sources for them. One would be to have them consider get into group counseling.”

Though the Counseling Center is making efforts to help students in need of long-term mental health care, some students could feel adverse effects.

“I feel a little gypped because sessions are part of my routine,” Cook said. “I look forward to that time. I was very thankful that UTD provided this service. I felt like my (student) fees were worthwhile. I’m not so crazy about the new limitations. It seems antithetical to student health.”

On a national average, students use approximately 5.8 sessions per year, according to Barnard College’s (an affiliate of Columbia University) Furman Counseling Center website.

However, Cook is apprehensive about the new policy since he seeks weekly help to keep himself stable. And with rising cost of tuition, books, and other daily expenses, Cook cannot afford to seek outside help.

“I am very thankful for the financial assistance that I get from the University,” Cook said. “It allows me to go to school while getting some great teaching experience, and my tuition and fees are paid for and I get insurance. It’s a pretty sweet deal. That said, once bills come due, once I buy all the books I need, once I pay car insurance, medical co-pays, food, and so forth, I have a little left over, but not enough to pay $50 or a $100 a week on counseling.”

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