The SUNY New Paltz Psychological Counseling Center (PCC) has begun a new outreach initiative this semester, designed to make it simple for students to speak with professional counseling staff in a comfortable space in the Student Union Building (SUB).
The Let’s Talk service offers free mental health consultation and support to undergraduate and graduate students, with no appointment necessary and no paperwork required beyond a brief, anonymous survey meant to help the PCC improve the service. Let’s Talk sessions are held every Wednesday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the SUB, Room 209, and are staffed by trained and dedicated counselors.
“Let’s Talk is basically an informal way of connecting with students and providing an immediate response to them,” said Gweneth Lloyd, director of student counseling. “Many college counseling centers struggle with demand for services, and we are always trying to find innovative ways of responding to students’ needs.”
The PCC sees more than 700 students annually, and additionally handles more than 1,000 consultation phone calls from students, faculty, staff and parents.
Among the benefits of Let’s Talk is that it provides an avenue for addressing some of the more common, non-emergency issues faced by many of the students who seek appointments: academic anxieties, relationships and social pressures, homesickness and related difficulties transitioning to independent college life and stress related to graduation, returning home to family and entering the job market and the “real world.”
This has had the effect of lifting some of the pressure off of the PCC’s schedule, without sacrificing its ability to provide wide-ranging, compassionate care to all students who seek it, especially those who feel a sense of urgency.
The outcomes of these informal conversations vary by case, but all students who chose to participate avail themselves of the expertise of the counselors in proposing problem solving strategies and planning next steps.
“The conversations we have in Let’s Talk sessions are not limited to particular topics,” Lloyd said. “Students may discuss anything that is important to them, anything that they consider to be very serious from their perspectives. Based on what our students say to us in these meetings, we might encourage them to seek further counseling and support, or we may provide resources to help them. In many cases the students feel that just the experience of expressing their concerns and having our staff respond to them is adequate.”
While the Let’s Talk program is new to the New Paltz campus in fall 2015, similar programs modeled after one first developed at Cornell University are considered an industry best practice in college and university level student counseling.
“Every week we are seeing an increase in the number of students who come to see us,” Lloyd said, adding that preliminary plans are in place to expand Let’s Talk hours of operation to respond to demand.
More information about student counseling at SUNY New Paltz and the Let’s Talk program is available online. Students interested in learning more about the PCC and the services it provides may also call (845) 257-2920.