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The Counseling Center's inability to provide individual counseling for all who ask for it could be detrimental to students' mental health.

Some students have been outraged at changes in the Counseling Center. The Counseling Center announced that, effective Oct. 17 they’ll no longer be able to defer to students’ preferences or requests to meet individually with a counselor. Instead, they’ll direct students to group counseling, specialized treatment programs and online counseling resources. Although these programs could potentially help some students, they aren’t for everyone. Some students may want that individual therapy experience but won’t be able to receive it. 

The Counseling Center posted a clarification statement saying they haven’t eliminated individual counseling sessions for students. They claim most students come in with needs that align with other types of therapy, such as having something that’s the main discussion in a certain group therapy session. This creates problems for those who may connect with people in group therapy but don’t feel comfortable sharing their stories. Students may feel uncomfortable speaking about their personal issues, even if they’re surrounded by others who’ve gone through the same thing. This change could cause students to refrain from going to the counseling center in fear that they’ll have to share their stories with someone other than a therapist. 

Although students seem to be retaliating against the Counseling Center’s decision blame should be placed elsewhere. The staff at the Counseling Center are making these changes to help as many students as possible. In their announcement, the Counseling Center emphasized that the change was due to high demand, creating scheduling conflicts. Students who’ve been to the Counseling Center have probably noticed first hand that it’s not as spacious as it should be. There aren’t enough staff members or rooms to accommodate the amount of students who want one-on-one therapy sessions. 

The administration should focus on expanding the counseling center. Alumni donations and  fundraising could provide a budget to either expand the counseling center in SSC or move it to a new building. This way more counselors could be hired creating more time and space for one-on-one sessions. Although hiring more counselors would mean paying more faculty, this seems like a reasonable cost. The expansion of athletic buildings, new dining halls and parking decks have left some students concerned about the priorities of the administration. Although these funds come from a different budget, JMU should look into specific aspects of the university that may need more funding. 

The most common mental health issues on college campuses include anxiety, depression, suicide, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, addiction, self-harm and struggles with identity. However, just because these mental health issues are common doesn’t mean those experiencing them want to share their stories with others. The Counseling Center offers group therapy for almost all of these topics and encourages the students to discuss their issues with each other. While this type of therapy may work for some, it won’t work for everyone. People who want individual counseling may have to look off-campus for a therapist, which could cost a  large sum of money with out without insurance. 

At the end of the day, the university needs to care about their students. The administration needs to prioritize what matters most and not focus on the outward appearance of the university. It’s unfair and blatantly disrespectful to students when the administration would rather build a new stadium than a place for comfort and therapy. JMU needs to be held responsible for their actions and prove to students that they care. 

Megan Klepper is a senior, writing, rhetoric and technical communication major. Contact Megan at kleppemc@dukes.jmu.edu.