Beginning this Monday, students waiting for appointments in Counseling and Psychological Services residence hall offices will be able to get a text message notification five minutes before a counselor is ready.
The new text message system, which was proposed by the Residential Hall Leadership Organization, will create a more anonymous and efficient system for students using CPS satellite offices in residence halls, according to Executive Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Richard Eichler.
With the new text messaging system, students will no longer have to wait in hallways to enter residence hall offices without waiting rooms. Instead of spending long periods of time waiting for counselors to become available, students can fill out a form with their personal information whenever they go to a CPS residence hall office to participate in the text message notification system, and then wait elsewhere for a counselor to become available.
"I think that it's important that students feel comfortable using them [CPS residence hall offices]," RHLO's Director of Residential Policy and Advocacy Christina Park, CC '17, said. "It's something so personal to have the risk of seeing friends, and they'll walk by and see you. I think [that] just was not appropriate, and I feel like maybe it deterred students from going there if they wanted to."
CPS Associate Director of Outreach Anne Goldfield said the new system will also allow counselors to provide updates to students about the status of their availability and refer them to other offices if emergencies arise. If a session goes longer than expected or a student in distress comes to the office, counselors will be able to update students on the predicted wait time or refer them to a different satellite office.
"We have access to each clinician's schedule, so it wouldn't just be a statement of 'go to another office,'" Goldfield said. "It would be, 'This person at this other office is available now, please feel free to go to that office, or you could wait to see me at a specific time,' in order to accommodate whoever we are trying to work with at that moment in addition to the student who's coming back."
RHLO partnered with CPS to address more effective anonymity in their five residence hall offices In October, and has been working with Eichler since. Park said she hopes this new system will create more traffic for the residence hall offices.
"It's such an incredible resource, in the residence halls, people should be in them, and the CPS offices on the eighth floor of Lerner are so busy all the time," Park said. "It's like, 'Why is that so busy, but these offices are not?' There's got to be a reason for that."
Eichler had originally suggested to Park that CPS create a website that would allow students to reserve available time slots on a counselor's schedule when they plan on going to a particular office. He said that this type of system would allow students to see which offices are busy when they plan on going and let them plan accordingly.
However, both Park and Eichler agreed that, while such a system might ultimately be more effective, a text messaging system could be implemented earlier. Eichler said that CPS plans to continue looking into whether a website is feasible.
Though the text messaging system will not remove the stigmatization associated with seeking counseling, Eichler said he hopes it will give students the tools to remain more anonymous.
"We'd love to live in a world where people didn't feel stigmatized by coming to counseling. [I]t should be no different than going to see an adviser—that's not the world we live in," Eichler said. "We understand that, we want to respect that, we don't want any students being deterred from seeking counseling because they're afraid in some ways of being made public, so we try, we do everything we can to protect them."