SAIC students may not know that Counseling Service provides up to sixteen free counseling sessions to all currently enrolled, part- or full-time degree-seeking students, regardless of health insurance status.
According to Joe Behen, Ph.D., the Director of Counseling Services, in the 2008-9 academic year 382 students of the total 2,900 took advantage of these free sessions. As one student told F Newsmagazine, “It was good to have someone to listen, give feedback, to know [that] the counselor represents the school, and that the school cares about the welfare of its students and what happens to them.”
Counseling Services screens all students that come into their office, as well as students coming into Health Services, by providing questionnaires regarding feelings of depression, substance abuse, and other mental health issues along with intake paperwork. In this way, Counseling Services hopes to reach students that may not even be aware they are suffering from depression or other mental health issues. There is online mental health screening available on the portal, and Counseling Services has compiled a guide called A Reference Guide for School of the Art Institute of Chicago Faculty and Staff, which is available on the portal and is given to all new faculty and provides information on how to identify troubled students and assist them in obtaining appropriate help. Additionally, in collaboration with the Office of Student Affairs, Counseling Services organizes an annual depression screening. Despite these efforts, however, the student body does seem to remain somewhat uninformed about what mental health services the School offers.
While the transition to a new school and new city—and often a new country, as roughly a fifth of our undergraduate student body hails from overseas—can be daunting, and free-of-charge counseling services can prove absolutely crucial to a students’ success, these free sessions may be reduced in the future because of a 12% increase in the use of these services during the 2008-2009 school year. Behen states that this increase almost caused students needing to see a counselor to be waitlisted, and explained that decreasing the amount of free sessions can eliminate the need to waitlist students for appointments. With an average number of sessions used being 7 or 8, a reduced number of free sessions allows all students seeking counseling and psychotherapy to be seen more readily.
Half of the students that go to Counseling Services receive a referral for ongoing therapy, and according to Behen, these referrals happen both before students have used up their free sessions and after they have used all 16 sessions. These outside facilities, however, do not offer free counseling or psychotherapy. For students with SAIC’s student health insurance, students are referred either to Cathedral Counseling Center or Northwestern Psychiatry Foundation Institutional Connection. Students referred to Cathedral Counseling Center need to pay a $150 deductible and then a $10 co-pay per counseling or psychiatric session. For students with their own health insurance, Counseling Services will help that student find a counseling facility that is covered by the student’s private insurance.
For now, Counseling Services still offers sixteen free sessions and is open during the summer. As Behen says, “there is no problem too small for a student to come in for counseling. Even if Counseling Services is not the right place for a student’s needs, it can still help that student to find the right place to go for help.”
Counseling Services is located in the same suite as Health Services at 116 S. Michigan Avenue on the 13th floor. Even if students are unable to go to Counseling Services during office hours, they can take advantage of a limited number of appointment times available for students who need an evening appointment. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 pm and 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. To take advantage of these free sessions, call 312-499-4271 and ask the receptionist for a counseling appointment. Students can also contact Counseling Services with any questions by e-mail at [email protected]