BY: TORI CHIN
The American Academy of Pediatrics updated their guidelines in February to suggest that universal depression screenings should be done by primary care clinicians. Currently, most primary care clinicians only screen if there are complaints or family concerns about a possibly depressed youth.
To prepare for accommodating for the new guideline, treatment facilities will need to hire more employees. At the University of Florida’s Counseling and Wellness Center eight new faculty positions were approved for this year and four more next year.
“I think [universal depression screening tests] could open up the conversations a lot more easily,” said Christina McGrath Fair, a counselor education intern of the CWC.
Administrators are now talking about what it will take to allocate the necessary amount of resources to the large student population at UF.
“It’s hard to know how much of an increase [in patients] we will see from these screenings, but I imagine we will see some,” Dr. Ernesto Escoto, director of the CWC, said.
What does it take to get an appointment at the CWC? Typically, after calling the CWC, a triage appointment is set up to assess the needs of the student, Fair said. The appointment typically lasts 20 to 30 minutes and determines the next step for the patient.
Every student receiving a triage appointment is recommended some kind of guidance, Fair said. Based on their needs, students will be directed to specialized resources such as group therapy, individual therapy, local therapists or the Disability Resource Center.
If a student is suggested group therapy after their triage appointment, they will then be screened for about an hour and a half in a group of 10 or fewer students, Fair said.
Fair said the CWC’s group therapy is separated into two types: psychoeducational and skills groups, which allows counselors to teach skills, coping mechanisms or interventions, and process groups, which more in-depth, vulnerable and designed to allow students to share and make connections with other students who are going with similar situations.
Process groups include LGBTQ Empowerment, Taming the Anxious Mind and Making Peace with Food.
“Group therapy is just as effective as one-on-one counseling,” Escoto said. “It’s not for everybody, but it’s equally effective.”
Individual therapy sessions at the CWC last about about an hour and are one-on-one meetings with a therapist, Fair said. The sessions typically run in the duration of a semester. At the end of the semester, the patient and therapist will discuss steps for moving forward.
If a student is suggested individual therapy, a new client appointment will be set up in order to meet with a therapist, Fair said. This appointment allows the student to determine if the therapist is a good fit for their needs, and the therapist will ask more detailed questions about the patient in order to decide which techniques will best fit them.
“Each therapist can work in general with any issues, but there are some with specific strengths in different areas,” Fair said.
The CWC focuses on a “short-term model” of treatment, Fair said. After a student has completed their individual or group therapy with the CWC, they might be referred to community resources such as local therapists or the Alachua County Crisis Center which offers free, long-term counseling but is not on any bus routes.
The CWC has a large database of providers in the Gainesville community to recommend outside sources for students that will also take their insurance, Fair said.
Sarah Hayes, a UF business administration senior, said that while the CWC offers many resources, its process may take a while due to the limited staff and amount of money able to provide services.
“It can take forever to get an appointment,” she said.
In the middle of each Fall semester, the CWC’s waitlist is opened for new client appointments, Escoto said. Last year, the CWC saw 5,100 students, and only 306 of those students had been placed on the waitlist with an average wait time of 16 days.
Fair said students can still use other resources while they wait. The CWC also has a satellite office on the fourth floor of Peabody Hall with on-call therapists for students who feel like they need to see a professional and can’t wait for an appointment. A student may also choose to attend one of the CWC’s workshops which work on a walk-in system.
“One of my favorites is called ‘Yappy Hour,’” said Sally Bright, a UF psychology junior and AWARE ambassador. “During this workshop, students get to play with two therapy dogs, Siggi and Gabe.”
In regard to general tips for handling stress and anxiety, Fair suggested practicing mindfulness, which could mean anything from putting away your phone to engage with surroundings, mindfully enjoying a meal each day or taking time for mindful meditations.
“When we’re focused in the present moment and what’s occurring right now, it’s really hard to be anxious about what could happen next or worry about what already happened,” Fair said.