Throughout the 2016-17 academic year, staff at the Baylor University Counseling Center have met with over 2,000 individual students. This represents a 62 percent increase from last year and is a direct result of opening a second facility on campus, which made possible the hiring of more staff and the increased provision of a range of counseling services.
In January 2017, the Dutton Avenue location opened as a second Counseling Center facility. With 7,630 square feet devoted to group therapy rooms, a relaxation room, therapist offices, trauma services and more, the University now invests a total of 11,880 square feet – in the Student Life Center and Dutton facilities – to students’ mental and emotional wellbeing.
"The new space has allowed us to do things we haven’t been able to do before," said Dr. Jim Marsh, Executive Director of Counseling Services. "We’re able to see a lot more students and offer an even broader range of services, in a very timely manner."
The addition of two new group therapy rooms has allowed the Counseling Center to offer 25 different groups this semester, ranging from social anxiety to sexual assault support to recovery for drugs and alcohol addiction. "Group therapy is a great option for many concerns college students present with," Marsh said. Group therapy offerings more than doubled from last year, due to the extra space available for groups to meet regularly.
Along with the addition of 20 more offices, the new space allowed for the creation of a room designed to teach students relaxation skills and another space for students who have experienced interpersonal violence to meet with staff.
"We do not have a waiting list. We are able to meet with students soon after they come to our walk-in clinic. Access is greater, and opportunities for treatment are broader," Marsh said.
Perhaps most essential to the dynamic changes at the Counseling Center, the addition of the Dutton facility allowed for the hiring of new staff. In April of 2016, the center had 8 full-time staff members, 1 half-time employee and several who cycled in part time. The increased space paved the way to hire a number of additional staff members, bringing the Counseling Center to 22 full-time employees.
The impact on students? Baylor University now has 1 full-time clinical staff member for every 750 students. The International Association for Counseling Services recommends a minimum of 1 staff to every 1,500 students, and the average for highly rigorous private schools is around 1 to 1,000.
"We’ve hired, not just more people, but a really diverse staff," Marsh said. "That’s important because we have a very diverse student body. The ability to connect with all our students is key."
The Counseling Center is attracting experts from coast to coast, with clinical staff joining the University from places including San Francisco, North Carolina and Chicago. Many have also been hired within Texas – with new staff joining from Abilene, Houston and Plano – and locally as well. Geographic diversity is only the start.
"We have hired people with lots of different backgrounds and areas of expertise. We’ve been able to add, not just people but knowledge and experience as well. They bring that knowledge and experience working with students with all types of needs and they also consult with everyone on staff to help colleagues grow in that area. Having these experts gives us someone to go to," Marsh said.
Ultimately, of all the expansions – square footage, therapists and quiet spaces – the most important increase to Marsh is the number of students the Counseling Center has been able to help due to these changes. "The success we’ve seen in one year is pretty amazing – to have built the building, hired all the staff and been able to see all the students," he said. "The University’s commitment to caring for students is definitely making an impact in this area."