All University students are given 10 free sessions a year at the University Counseling Center, which I believe is a well-intentioned gift, but an insufficient one.
There are two realities we must face here. One is that, while a good start, 10 sessions of therapy, for anyone, with any problem, is about enough to get to know a person and begin to talk about their past history and maybe, time permitting, begin talking about the reason for the visits. 10 sessions of therapy, as I’m sure all of the health care professionals at UCC know, or should know, is not enough therapy to help someone. It is not enough time for a full and thorough examination of a person and his or her symptoms. Psychology, especially clinical psychology, is not an exact science. It is not rote memory of the DSM-IV. It is not a five-minute mono test.
The other reality we have to face here is that therapy is grossly expensive – at UR and throughout the country. It is simply not practical to expect that the average person has enough money to spend on therapy. As evident by UR’s own policy about counseling, therapy is probably the most disrespected and disregarded medical practice in the world. It is not seen as imperative, and something that is not considered essential can be overlooked. Something that is not considered important can get away with offering 10 free sessions and nothing more.
So what can they do about it? As we all know, there are two options when a business – yes, a business – is confronted with a problem like this. The first: compromise quality. The quality of therapy could be compromised in order to conduct a brief overview of symptoms and offer temporary, ineffectual solutions. But let’s assume (against all of our better judgment) that UHS, UCC and the rest of the world do not conduct their business this way – that they understand the importance of their product and the necessity that it be available to everyone.
So what is the other option? Change the policy! Put more money into your health program so that you can offer people who need medical care 10 free sessions per semester instead of per year. Put more time and effort into ensuring that the doctors and therapists you hire are qualified and effectual. Create some sort of system where the hundreds of students who don’t use their 10 free sessions can give them to those who will.
There are a multitude of solutions that go dormant and unexplored because of one thing: policy – and strict, uncompromising adherence to it.
When a policy is created to make and save money, it is not applicable to health care. If it is policy that is holding these departments back, and policy that is determining the kind of care we are receiving, then the policy needs to change.
This is an imminent and a dangerous problem. The result of this is that students in need of good health care are not receiving it. It is imperative that the University sees that even though Independent Health might not yet recognize the importance of therapy, people need it.
And the problem is not just with the availability of therapy to everyone. This is an administrative problem, too – a problem reflecting a lack of responsiveness, a lack of communication between UHS and the students. We don’t need to hear any more horror stories about a girl trying to bring an animal to campus with her out of a clearly respectable and valid necessity and being turned down.
Changing policy requires a change in perspective – doing what’s best for the students and not doing what’s best financially. We attend an excellent university with great academic faculty and dedicated students. We deserve the best that the University has to offer, not just what the University can spare.
Fornarola is a member of the class of 2009.