Along with many other aspects of campus life, AU’s Counseling Services have been operating in a virtual format. However, Christal Helvering, the director of Counseling Services, explained that the transition to a hybrid format has begun, allowing some students to attend counseling sessions face-to-face.
“In compliance with the recent modifications to the on-campus COVID regulations, Counseling Services will begin to transition to more of a hybrid offering of services,” said Helvering.
She noted that this transition will be closely monitored to ensure the safety of the students and counselors during face-to-face sessions.
This change comes as a huge relief for students like Veda Craig, a sophomore psychology major, who have been attending virtual counseling sessions.
“While talking to someone virtually is amazing and beneficial, it is not the same level of comfort as sitting in a room on a comfy couch and being able to communicate not just with your words about how you are doing,” said Craig.
Craig noted that some students chose to stop attending counseling due to the virtual format.
“I know quite a few students who did not want to do counseling once it was deemed virtual,” said Craig. “They have simply said that it does not feel the same and it is not effective for them because they are not as motivated to just jump on another zoom meeting. Counseling online feels more like a draining event that doesn’t benefit them.”
Craig also recognizes that the virtual format has helped many students who would’ve been unable to seek out help otherwise.
“I think that the positive side is that for some people, telehealth has been more accessible for them,” said Craig. “It has also been nice that despite the fact that it is not as enjoyable online, it is still there if needed.”
Helvering also noticed the decrease in students attending counseling services after the pandemic started.
“Initially in the spring, we experienced a slight decrease in students who chose to continue with counseling as they were making the difficult adjustment to virtual learning and returning home earlier than expected,” said Helvering. “However, we also serviced a good number of students who were new to counseling as they were struggling to adjust to all that COVID-19 brought their way and sought additional support through counseling.”
During the fall 2020 semester, Helvering only noticed a small decrease in students seeking counseling services compared to recent years. However, she added that there was a large increase of cancellations, and she suspects this is due to a phrase deemed: “virtual fatigue.”
“The general feedback we have received from the students who have chosen to not continue utilizing counseling during this pandemic has been directly related to their fatigue and discomfort in having to do it virtually,” said Helvering.
She noted that this past year has been a struggle for almost everyone, and she offered encouragement for students who are feeling overwhelmed.
“As counselors, we have encouraged students to remember they have the power to choose their response to the challenges the pandemic has brought their way,” said Helvering. “This would include giving ourselves permission to feel what is valid, remain mindful that it is indeed temporary despite how it may feel, to extend ourselves and others much grace and to be proactive in creating a ‘new normal’ that enables each of us to respond to these challenges in the healthiest of ways.”
Helvering noted that she is excited and optimistic for the future.
“I believe our students are resilient and creative,” said Helvering. “I remain hopeful that they will, in time, emerge from this most challenging year stronger, more self-aware [and] in a position to harvest what they have learned about themselves and about what is truly most important.”
She says that many students have persevered and have made the best of this tough year, but she is excited as the restrictions are being modified, and she hopes to be headed toward a time where students can once again enjoy the traditions and activities that enhance their AU experience.
“Meanwhile, for students interested in seeking some additional support through counseling, we encourage them to connect with us by accessing the links on our Counseling Services web page and submitting the required intake forms,” said Helvering.