Students struggle with University therapy appointment limits

Student Counseling Services offers 15 free sessions a year, which some students say is too few.

Boynton Health as seen on Friday, Feb. 23. Visits to the mental health clinic are up 18 percent compared to fall semester.

Carter Blochwitz

Boynton Health as seen on Friday, Feb. 23. Visits to the mental health clinic are up 18 percent compared to fall semester.

Lew Blank

With mental health a widely-discussed issue at the University of Minnesota, some students have expressed there is a shortage of therapy sessions available to them.

Student Counseling Services, a mental health service provider on campus, offers 15 free therapy sessions to students every year. Students are allowed 25 sessions across their entire time at the University. Some students say these limits on free, on-campus therapy appointments can create financial obstacles and reduce their access to mental health services.

According to SCS, the on-campus sessions are not intended to treat long-term problems, but focus on addressing short-term issues.

Morgan Hineline, a sophomore studying psychology, began attending therapy sessions with SCS to help treat her anxiety. She was unable to continue her sessions once she reached the 15 appointment cap.

Although SCS helped arrange for an off-campus institution to provide further care, Hineline had difficulty financing and traveling to that service.

“I ended up not being able to [attend the mental health sessions] because I don’t have a car,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to even get to where I’m supposed to go unless I paid for an Uber or found a friend to take me, but that’s not very reliable. … I’m a broke college kid and I don’t want to have to pay for Ubers.”

Emily Anderson, an urban studies and political science major at the University, experienced similar problems with costs and transportation for off-campus treatment.

Anderson said she began attending SCS sessions in January and quickly went through the allotted number of appointments.

When she was transferred by SCS to an off-campus provider, she was charged a $20 co-pay for each session. Over the course of a month, this added up to about $80, which she said was hard to finance.

Anderson also found it difficult to switch providers after building a connection with her original therapist at SCS.

“It was … difficult to try to find a new [therapist],” she said. “You build a relationship with one, and then you have to start over and … get comfortable with another one.”

Although it can create some obstacles, the 15-session limit is the best the University can do with the resources it has, said Sarra Beckham-Chasnoff, a senior supervising psychologist at SCS.

“What we really were trying to address in creating [the limit] was what would be a reasonable amount of time that a student with a short-term issue could get short-term work done,” she said. “We’re trying to serve as many students as we can as best we can, but our services can’t be unlimited.”

Beckham-Chasnoff said the majority of students who visit SCS only require short term counseling. The small percentage that desire more than 15 sessions per year are eligible to receive an extension under certain circumstances.

“We won’t stop seeing a student until they are connected,” Beckham-Chasnoff said. “At no point do we just shut the door and just say, ‘15 sessions is up, you’re out.’ … It’s not like you have a punch card, and then your card is all punched.”

Anderson said she understood where SCS was coming from, though she would like more resources and appointments to become available.

“As mental health issues become more and more prevalent and more and more serious … I think it would make sense to potentially hire more therapists,” she said. “But I also understand … the budgetary restrictions that they face.”

Hineline said she agreed with the idea of having a cap on free sessions, but she’d prefer if SCS had more resources on hand.

“Right now, I think it is a good idea to have a cap, because I know they can’t see everyone and they do what they can,” she said. “I just wish that wasn’t the case. … I wish they had enough resources.”