Assessing mental health at CSU

Last week 723 students came in to the health network for counseling services — over 100 of the students were coming in for the first time.

Why do people come in?


According to Susan MacQuiddy, the director of counseling services at CSU, students come in for problems that are situational — a recent-break up, academic stress, a family problem, or things that are more long-standing like depression, anxiety, or history of abuse or disorder.

“The fact of the matter is most of us could benefit from talking to someone about the stuff that’s going on in their life,” said Mark Benn, a CSU psychologist who also works in his own practice. “Whether it’s a suicidal death that happened in your residence hall, or the fear of sexual assault walking by the track in the night.”

Benn said that therapy and counseling can be taboo in society, especially on a university campus, and that a social change needs to occur to change this discourse.

“Real world stuff happens here,” Benn said. “People get assaulted, people die, people have anxiety, people break up, people have abortions, people have depression.”

Director MacQuiddy emphasizes the point that CSU counseling services want to have a welcoming atmosphere for students to approach therapy and counseling the way they want to.

“I think that what needs to happen is a change in the culture, where insurance companies pay for people to go to therapy, for friends to say, ‘Hey man, you would benefit by talking to somebody,’” Benn said. “Just like if you had a cold for two weeks and your roommate would say, ‘Yeah, you gotta go see a doctor for that.’’”

 What does the initial consultation look like?

The first session of therapy can be intimidating, MacQuiddy said, but she encourages those who are considering it to recognize it is a solution just like a doctor’s appointment for illness.

When someone makes the decision to seek services, they can call or come into the office at Aylesworth or Hartshorne Health Clinic to make an appointment. There is an initial 15 to 20 minute screening where the counsellors can identify the concerns, and then a consultation is scheduled. The consultation is where the student will meet with the counselor that they will continue to work with.

“The vast majority that need to, do (come back),” MacQuiddy said.


Students can choose to seek a one-time individual appointment, ongoing individual sessions, group-sessions, or couples appointments.

How much does it cost?

Counseling at CSU is included in student fees so the first five sessions per semester are no charge. Each additional session is $10 and group and workshop sessions are at no additional charge.

“I tell students there are a few times in life when you have access to free therapy — or therapy that is already paid for by your student fees,” said Bryan Dik, a counseling psychology professor at CSU. “With the transition to college, pressures, stresses, temptations — if there is any indication you need it, what do you have to lose?”

What are the numbers?

The average number of appointments per student was 6.2 in the 2012-2013 academic year. From July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, 14.2 percent of the entire student body sought counseling services at CSU.

Typically, there is an equal representation from undergraduate and graduate classes, according to MacQuiddy. Over recent years, counseling services has made an attempt to bring a particular awareness for freshmen at the Preview program.

“We have had some increase in first-year students in the last couple of years, generally we have a fair number from each class who use our services,” MacQuiddy said.

At Aylesworth and Hartshorne Health Clinic, six of every ten people who seek services are female.

“Traditionally, on campus, and in society, women tend to seek services more easily than men,” MacQuiddy said. “We try to do everything we can to make it increasingly acceptable for men to reach out for assistance, too.”

What if it’s not the right fit?

MacQuiddy recognized that people are not always comfortable with their counsellor initially.

“We know that everybody is not the right fit for everyone. We want people to get the right fit. If you get somebody that is not a good match for you, we want to deal with that,” MacQuiddy said.

Changing a counsellor can be done in the appointment itself or with another counsellor. Feedback is welcomed and encouraged.

“We really try and make it acceptable for people to say ‘This is not a good fit for me.’ Ideally, if they can say that to the person they’re seeing, that’s really fine,” MacQuiddy said.

Who makes up the mental health staff?

There are 57 staff members on the counseling services at CSU, including 19 full-time senior staff members, 21 graduate trainees who include doctoral students in psychology and advanced masters students in counseling and social work.

The caliber of the therapy offered at CSU is just the same as services in the real world.

“We believe in what we’re doing,”  Dik said.

Dik, who also works in the training of psychologists at Hartshorne and the counseling center, speaks highly of the employees.

“They are a world-class staff, they are a well-respected on campus,” Dik said. “It is a sought after job.”

Students making the decision to seek counseling services at CSU can consider the passion of the staff.

“To be able to see somebody get through a difficult time and to be able to go forward and live their life more fully is really rewarding. It gives us all a lot of meaning in our own lives,” MacQuiddy said. “We really want to be here for students when they need us.”

Collegian Diversity Beat Reporter Hannah Hemperly can be reached at