The University of Rhode Island’s Counseling Center has been forced to hold most appointments remotely due to social distancing guidelines and halted the construction of its new building.
Services such as teletherapy and online group therapy are available to URI students on their website, with a 24-hour helpline available as well. However, in case of emergency, the physical Counseling Center is still open with staffers.
According to Cory Clark, the assistant director of the Counseling Center, some rooms are set up with Plexiglass so that a student and counselor can see each other in person while still remaining safe.
“We rotate in, we have a minimum of two practitioners in the office every day,” Clark said. “Our hours have not changed. We have changed around a bit in the sense of new signage around saying that we’re operating remotely, so people know and can just reach us remotely.”
The switch to teletherapy led to a few extra obstacles for counselors, as practitioners needed to be licensed in states other than Rhode Island to call students living in those states. This was mitigated somewhat, however, according to Clark.
“Certain states had emergency plans in place that allowed practitioners not licensed in those states to operate in those states,” Clark said.
Due to the remote nature of teletherapy, Clark said that practitioners must ask for an additional phone number and the student’s current location, in case of technical difficulties or an emergency, respectively.
Clark believes that the pandemic has actually made the community more accessible to the Counseling Center.
“In the past, we had trouble referring to the community if they didn’t have a car or a way to get to the Counseling Center,” Clark said.
The Counseling Center’s plans to move into a new building alongside Health Services have also been put on hold due to the pandemic. Last year, the University announced that they planned to construct a new building between Butterfield and Peck Hall on Butterfield Road for the Counseling Center and Health Services.
“We’ve had to slow that plan for about a year because of COVID, or else we would be really far along right now in the design of that new building,” Vice President of Student Affairs Kathy Collins said.
According to Collins, URI and the design firm that it is working with are taking a year to pause planning for the new building, and will continue designing it again next year.
Collins also believes that telehealth is something that URI might stick with even after the pandemic is over, particularly for students at the Providence campus and students doing internships.
“I think this might be something that is here to stay, but obviously our goal is to get the Counseling Center and everyone back open again when it’s safe for everyone to do so,” she said.
Ultimately, Clark’s view of teletherapy was that it could successfully treat students, although nothing is quite like meeting in-person.
“Generally it’s worked quite well; although I believe there’s a little bit of loss in the connections,” Clark said.
This was published in the September 24, 2020 edition of the Good Five Cent Cigar.