In a recent op-ed, the recipient of the American College Counseling Assocation's Counselor of the Year award argues colleges are expanding access to mental health services in the wrong way.
The award winner is Earl Martin, a counselor at Everett Community College who has spent his career fine-tuning the role that counselors play in student success. Martin argues that the rush to expand access to mental health care has led colleges to focus on superficial supports.
In recent years, the demand for student counseling services has skyrocketed, and colleges have struggled to keep up. In an effort to provide services for all students who need them, Martin says colleges have turned to hiring individuals with far less training and expertise than certified counselors.
Without extensive training, vetting, and screening, these "counselor light" hires, as Martin calls them, are not as fully equipped to help students. He argues that the psychology training and extensive supervised internship experience that certified counselors go through teaches them to address big-picture issues that might be contributing to students' struggles—academically and otherwise.
Summer to-do list for behavioral intervention teams
These "counselor light" jobs also aren't tenured, Martin writes, which means those individuals aren't always free to make difficult decisions out of fear they might jeopardize their role.
In the face of budget cuts and high demand, Martin advises colleges to opt for fewer counselors with stronger credentials, such as masters' degrees, rather than less-skilled employees in the interest of quantity (Long, Seattle Times, 4/24).
Another way to meet students' counseling needs? Partner with health centers
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