Trinity’s Student Counselling Service has cleared its waiting list after being given a recruitment waiver from College.
Trish Murphy, the acting director of Trinity’s Student Counselling Services confirmed to The University Times that in general students are not having to wait to receive an appointment with the counselling service.
Murphy said: “The College gave us a waiver on recruitment so we were able to fill our roles without going through the recruitment subcommittee, so they’ve been really good. We took on extra people then.”
“Then everybody switched their holidays”, she said. “So we worked very hard to get through the waitlist. It had been gradually going down, we were really thrilled to kind of get the end of it before we started [the new academic year].”
In August, the Irish Times reported that Trinity’s counselling service had an average wait time of 40 days for follow-up appointments after their initial needs assessment.
While most students will be able to get a counselling appointment immediately, some who require evening appointments will still be required to wait in order to secure a slot. Murphy said of the wait times: “A couple of students are waiting for a specific evening appointment but in general there is none.”
Murphy conceded that the waiting list will lengthen closer to Christmas as demand for services increases. “We’re trying to offer people lots of other things as well as one-to-one counselling – for example, we’re doing these things called skill sessions. So, how to manage anxiety, how to manage low mood, and then checking in with people, and then moving them to one-to-one counselling.”
Additional state funding for third-level counselling services enabled Trinity to hire three additional counsellors last year – one full time and two part-time – who will be retained this year.
“The pandemic really increased the level of mental health issues”, Murphy added. “The government and the College recognise this and we’re trying to put in some preventative measures by giving extra staff to counselling and by financial support, in whatever way they could.”
The counselling service also provides emergency appointments for students. Murphy stated: “We will always see someone in a crisis the same day or as near as possible.”
There are also a number of counsellors located in Trinity Hall who provide counselling appointments to the approximately 1,000 students who live there.
Currently, the counselling service provides appointments to students through a hybrid model that comprises in-person, zoom and phone options.
The counselling service also offers a range of services including, one-to-one sessions, long term therapy groups, cognitive behaviour educational groups and support groups.
Some 11.4 per cent of Trinity students sought support from the service last year.
College had been “actively working” to minimise waiting lists, which were “persistently high” during the pandemic.
Provost Linda Doyle as part of her election campaign pledged to support the recruitment of a deputy head of counselling. She also vowed to allocate additional resources to the student counselling service “at times of great pressure” and promised to increase space made available for counselling “across all Trinity locations”.
In her manifesto entitled Imagine Trinity Doyle said: “Mental health is one of the big issues of our time. The effects of COVID have exacerbated this further and the impacts will be long felt.”