With finals around the corner and homework building for each student, counselors like Tyson Alexander see episodes of anxiety and depression increase in students.
As the interim director of the Medical and Counseling Care Center, Alexander wants students to feel open to going to the MACCC to be healed of these issues, things are common but can be treated.
The MACCC works to accomplish making appointments prioritizing the client above all else.
Programs like 13 Reasons Why show characters getting frustrated with their parents or teachers who don’t allow them to explain themselves properly. While fictional, statements at the beginning of the show explain the intent is to bring legitimate issues and feelings people have to the surface, to make it easier for teens and young adults to be heard.
With no limit to appointments and flexibility to the appointment cost, counseling sessions are more student and mental stability-focused. The intent of this is to establish personal counsel between the counselor and the client. This is something Alexander said he believes larger universities can’t accomplish as well.
Counseling services at each university vary depending on its available staff as well as the student population. For example, when examining the services offered at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, they utilize the “brief therapy model.” Sessions are 15 to 20 minutes and are limited to “15 sessions per academic year.”
“Since the Counseling Center utilizes a brief therapy model, students who need intensive weekly counseling or long-term treatment are not a good fit for our services,” said a statement from the TAMUCC Counseling Center.
Although the brief therapy model is a practical fit for the size of TAMUCC, Psychology Today describes person-centered therapy as a method that is more client-focused, meaning clients take more leadership in the discussion which allows them to discover their own solutions to their own struggle.
“Students are allowed to come to the counseling center for anything whether it’s school anxiety, social anxiety or even as severe as clinical depression or depressive episodes,” Alexander said. “Counseling is for anyone that could have something going on internally that is affecting their external lives.”
With a staff of four licensed and experienced counselors, the MACCC has rendered counseling services to 25 percent of the 4,544 students enrolled at ACU.
Although the counseling center is being utilized, Alexander wants people to know that it is not like state university counseling; the MACCC wants to eliminate problems before they increase. He said he believes when not taken care of properly, students allow their anxieties to grow, making their cases more intense than they need to be.
“Anxiety and depression have been on the growth for ten years,” Alexander said.
His statement mirrors modern statistics, showing a trend in the development of anxiety in teens an young adults.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin developing by age 14, while “75 percent…begin developing by age 24.”
This development of anxiety disorders comes from a combination of various things. Along with academic responsibilities, Learn Psychology says college students also have to deal with finances, living in a new/unfamiliar place and post-graduate plans.
With a growing number of students vocalizing their struggles, it is clear that these issues do not fit into one specific group.
Recent statistics indicate that “40 million U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder and 75 percent of them experience their first episode of anxiety by the age of 22,” while “85 percent of college students reported they had felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do at some point within the past year,” according to a report from the ADAA.
Regarding these numbers, Alexander said, “While this is probably because students are vocalizing it more, which is unique to this generation, we want them to feel safe coming here so we can assist the issue.”
“Students have come in here for a variety of different reasons whether it’s everyday anxiety because of school or more severe onset depression,” Alexander said.
Students believe the toll this has taken on them is extraneous with “41.6 percent stating anxiety as the top concern” and “30 percent reported that stress had negatively affected their academic performance.”
Each week, the staff comes together for a devotional or prayer time, praying over students that will be present for sessions that week.
While Christianity is not brought up in every session, it influences the MACCC’s approach to therapy. By doing this, they believe they have a strong foundation to help students in their hurting.
Alexander said he knows that faith is not something every student wants in counseling, however, the intent of having counselors who are believers is not only to fit the principles ACU follows but to allow the clients to be helped in any way possible.
Toward the end of the semester, the center conducts client feedback reports, and Alexander said responses are often positive.
“We’re glad our feedback shows that students are left satisfied,” Alexander said. “Our questions are based on a five-point scale, with many responses receiving a four or five. Clients are happy that the counselors are listening to them and offering helpful feedback.”
This feedback has also shown better retention rates of students who went through counseling. Although these stats fall under the confidentiality policy of the counseling center, Alexander said that many students feel better after coming back here after their experiences.
If students are feeling better about coming back to the university, he said this means the Center is doing its job and accomplishing the goals they set themselves out to do.
Although it can be hard for students to cross the threshold into seeking help for their problems, the MACCC ensures that they are a viable source to assist issues from getting more severe.
The second most common cause of death among teens and young adults is suicide, which is often seen as the only end to hurt for these victims.
Taking this into account, Alexander believes the MACCC has the sources to prevent these drastic cases.
“Something that we want students to know coming here is that we not only offer advice but that we ensure them that this is a place where they can experience ultimate healing.”