Like all university counseling centers, Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services (MCAPS)—located in the Tranquada Student Services Center at the Claremont Colleges—works with limited resources to promote mental health among college students. Some Claremont students have said that Monsour could do more to assist those who are dealing with mental illness, but Monsour Director Gary DeGroot pointed to statistics that suggest that Monsour is already offering more services than some other counseling centers.
“I believe that in most counseling centers across the country the demand is greater than the resources, especially amidst budget and program cuts,” DeGroot wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “Having a waiting period for services can be frustrating and perhaps add to individuals shying away from therapy especially for those who are ambivalent about therapy.”
“Increased staff would help this issue, as college enrollments are increasing and there is more of a demand for therapy and mental health services,” he wrote.
Last academic year, Monsour’s staff saw 1034 students in 4845 appointments. With this volume of students seeking help, the center tries to keep the waiting time for appointments under seven business days, according to DeGroot.
Monsour currently maintains a staff of five full-time therapists, two part-time therapists, two post-doctoral therapists, two part-time intern level therapists, one 30 hours-per-week therapist and two part-time psychiatrists.
“At MCAPS a full weekly caseload for a full time staff member is about 20-23 clients a week. For part time it is about 10-12 a week,” DeGroot wrote. “This can vary week to week but usually our caseloads can fill up quickly. It’s not rare for our therapists to see 6-7 clients a day at 50 minutes per session.”
Monsour has an on-call system that accommodates students in the event of an emergency. Additionally, to combat waiting times, the center draws on psychological and psychiatric resources in the Claremont community. Community therapists are recommended for long-term therapy.
“When we see a student and it is evident that longer term therapy is needed or could be beneficial, we will refer to the community as we have a good working relationship with many therapists in Claremont who specialize in different areas,” DeGroot wrote.
Occidental College in Los Angeles maintains a wait time of less than one week for psychological services, according to the Associate Director of Student Health Services at Occidental College, Matthew Calkins.
“To do this, we’ve had to compromise in other areas—this includes reducing session limits, revising our intake practices, and seeing students bi-weekly/monthly rather than weekly,” Calkins wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “We make such decisions based on the urgency of a student’s need.”
He wrote that Occidental has also started offering more group counseling in response to student requests for services.
Monsour also offers regular group therapy on topics including grief, surviving assault or abuse and managing emotions, according to its website. The groups and workshops are recommended based on students’ needs and serve certain issues, like interpersonal skills, more effectively than others. However, DeGroot wrote that he has noticed less demand for these kinds of services.
“We often find that groups are becoming more and more difficult to fill,” he wrote. “This seems to also be a national trend as many students want individual one on one therapy. We often offer groups that do not run due to lack of sufficient members.”
According to Calkins, Occidental employs two full-time clinical psychologists, one part-time post-doctoral psychologist and three part-time psychologist interns for a general population of 2,080 students. Monsour employs a similar ratio of psychological services staff to student population as Occidental. Both serve approximately the same percentage of the student body.
“MCAPS is seeing about 15-17% of the Claremont College Population,” DeGroot wrote. This compares to a national average of nine percent of student population utilizing college counseling centers, he added.
Occidental’s counselors see about 15 percent of the student population for an average of five sessions each, according to Calkins.
Though Monsour measures up to other colleges’ counseling services statistically, some students at the Claremont Colleges have expressed dissatisfaction.
A Scripps junior who wished to remain anonymous said that she was initially seeing a therapist outside the colleges who, after diagnosing her with depression, referred her to Monsour for psychiatric evaluation.
“It wasn’t hard to get an appointment,” she said. “But when I went there … I was really seeking advice from a professional about what I should do and what I found is that the person I was speaking with wouldn’t give me advice.”
She added, “When I would ask them if they thought I should go on medication, they said, ‘Do you think you should go on medication?’”
Ultimately deciding not to seek medication, she returned to her initial therapist.
“I felt like I had to make the decision by myself and that they were just there to fill a prescription if I made that decision,” she said.
Louie Lemus-Mogrovejo PO ’15 also found that Monsour was unable to provide the specific services and advice that she was seeking.
“I’ve had some talks with people at Monsour. It’s not horrible, it’s not harmful, but the level of lasting aid is very limited,” she said. “What I’m thankful for is that they’re aware that it can only be a temporary thing and they do give out recommendations to other places.”
Yet, DeGroot wrote that Monsour is being heavily used by students in need, and that the center is expanding its reach in the community.
“Our psychiatric services (medication evaluation and monitoring) are also strongly utilized and seem to fill a strong need on campus,” he wrote. “We are actively involved in the training of student leaders (RA’s, mentors, sponsors, etc.) and continually try to get our message out on campus.”
DeGroot, who has been at Monsour for about 17 years, wrote that the colleges have placed increasing importance on mental health issues. He attributed this development to increased discussion and communication between students and with administration.
“I also believe that the taboo of therapy has somewhat decreased over the last 17 years (though still a factor) and students are more willing to seek services than in the past,” he wrote. “I think that more attention is being paid to mental health on campus due to national events that have taken place in the past few years, increased communication within administrative meetings and an increase in student awareness.”