The counselling services provided by Dalhousie Health and Wellness is arguably one of the most important services that is accessible to the students of Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College.
Dr. David Mensink has been working as a psychologist at Dalhousie since 1988, so he’s witnessed first-hand how the demand for counselling has changed over the years.
“There has been an increase every year that I have been here, but exponential growth in the past few years,” he said.
Dal Health and Wellness tries to make improvements to keep up with the ever-increasing demand, but it can be difficult. With demand comes supply – or lack thereof, and Dr. Mensink is aware that Dalhousie isn’t able to serve everyone, even though they have been making improvements.
“They can never have enough counsellors,” he said.
Last year, the stand-alone service Dal Counselling was folded into Dal Health and Wellness – for a more holistic approach to treating students.
“Basically, Health and Wellness is the physicians down the hallway, and the psychologists and the counsellors here,” said Dr. Mensink. “There’s also health promotion – but the major is those two units.”
This year, Dal implemented a new program designed to eliminate the long wait times that students have experienced in the past. They now offer same-day service; they’re open 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. to accommodate students who get out of classes later. Another big change, courtesy of the Dalhousie Student Union, is that Health and Wellness now pays for additional counsellors through health fees, including a counsellor exclusively for international students.
One King’s student who has used the counselling services both this year and last, said that not every aspect of the service is improving.
She wished to remain anonymous, because she didn’t feel comfortable enough to publicly attach her name to her story.
The student said the biggest difference between this year and last was the lack of a receptionist. When she went last year, the receptionist was “bringing a pleasant, warming, and informative presence to the atmosphere,” she said.
This year, there was no receptionist when she went. Instead of being able to talk to someone immediately, the student sat in the waiting room for an hour before anyone working there realized her situation and instructed her to take a number and wait for it to be called.
The student was fortunate enough that her state wasn’t too pressing; she was able to wait an hour before someone finally advised her, but if she had been in need of more urgent attention, the presence of a receptionist would have been vital.
“I would have walked away because I felt uncomfortable and that there was no one there to help me,” she said.
She appreciates therapy and what it does for her, but in her personal experience she sees potential improvements that could be made in Dal’s system. After waiting for an hour to get help, she felt uncomfortable about the idea of therapy for the first time in a long time.
The student’s confusion was perhaps caused by the recent merger of Dal Counselling into Dal Health and Wellness.
Dal Counselling used to have its own office, with its own receptionist; patients now check in for every appointment at the main Health and Wellness office, and then go down the hall to the waiting room near the counselling offices.
If a student wishes to make a counselling appointment by phone, it’s recommended to call the Health and Wellness Centre at 902-494-2171, because there is no more designated service that exclusively provides counselling.