Monsour removes 8-session cap, implements new policies to reduce wait times

A nameplate on a window reads "Health and Wellness Center" and another below reads "Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services."
Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services has removed its cap of eight sessions per semester and implemented new policies to reduce wait times for virtual appointments. (Jessica Phan • The Student Life)

In addition to offering entirely virtual services for the fall 2020 semester, Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services has implemented new policies to reduce wait times and removed the 8-session cap for student therapy appointments. 

In March 2019, a 5C coalition called Students for an Accountable Pomona led a rally to advocate for better quality mental health services for students. Student organizing and increasing student complaints led Monsour to commission a review panel in fall 2019 to make recommendations to improve staff availability and reduce therapy appointment wait times.

Based on recommendations from the panel, assistant director of Monsour Fiona Vajk said that it made significant changes to their services prior to the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

“In order to improve timely access to mental health care, MCAPS has implemented a new model providing students a brief assessment within a few days of initial contact,” Vajk said via email. “This model provides for streamlined services following the assessment including short-term, goal-directed therapy at MCAPS; or referrals for long-term, more intensive, or more specialized treatment.”  

The brief assessment model means that in a 25-minute appointment, a student can confer with a Monsour staff member and decide if they require the short-term therapy Monsour provides or if the student can immediately receive a referral for off-campus therapy. 

Monsour also removed the 8-session cap on student therapy appointments that had been in place, so as to “improve the equity and timeliness” of access to mental healthcare, Vajik said.

“Rather, the assessments approach has the goal of connecting each student as quickly as possible to appropriate mental health care,” Vajk said. 

However, California laws require that Monsour only service students residing in California, according to the Monsour website.

Monsour can still refer out-of-state students to local resources and provide limited services to those outside California, including “MCAPS brief assessments, crisis sessions, and in some cases psychiatry services are still available for out-of-state students,” Vajk said.

Although Monsour is not able to assist with the costs of off-campus referrals, some of the individual colleges have allocated funding to help students access mental health resources. 

Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College and Pomona College offer subsidies or reimbursements to their students to help cover non-Monsour therapy costs. Pitzer College and Harvey Mudd College do not offer therapy-specific subsidy or reimbursement programs.

“MCAPS has seen a moderate decrease in the number of students seeking appointments, which is expected due to many students residing out of state and seeking services in their local area,” Vajk said. 

Students at the 7Cs also have access to TalkNow, a service that connects users to mental health professionals. After filling out a form with basic information, students can access a mental health professional via phone or video call 24/7. 

“TalkNow is meant to augment the various service options for students. It is not a direct replacement for MCAPS services for students,” Vajk said.

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