By Charlie Taylor-Kroll
A number of Durham University counsellors, who have remained anonymous, have composed an email warning about the negative effects of proposed changes to the counselling service at the university.
The proposed changes involve transforming the counselling service into a “Counselling and Wellbeing Service”. As a result, students will be offered a longer initial assessment including a therapeutic consultation, which can be up to 90 minutes long, as well a 15-minute minute follow-up session a month later.
The new scheme also includes greater provisions for mental health, with two new mental health advisors being recruited in order to assess and refer students with enduring mental health problems.
The email emphasises that the new form of counselling will be based on wellbeing, “meaning students will be given, in the first instance, self-help materials and general, theme-based workshops, but not ongoing therapeutic work.”
The current model of counselling service at Durham University, in comparison, offers time-limited therapeutic support of six sessions for each student per academic year.
The current system also includes the presence of a mental health advisor, whose who was to assess and refer students with enduring mental health problems to the relevant service in the NHS.
According to the email deputy academic registrar Sam Dale said in a speech that, “All services are moving towards shorter interventions and an emphasis on self-help, with clear referrals/ signposting towards the now available NHS psychological therapies.”
The letter from the members of the counselling services outlined their concern with the changes that were proposed.
It read, “The proposed new model of support will significantly reduce the counselling support provision for the students and may result in further possible negative impacts on their personal, social and academic life.
“There is a movement in the university’s stance in recent years to focus on students fulfilling their academic potential, often disregarding the fact that academic growth and achievements do not come in a vacuum, separate from personal and social development.”
The letter concluded. “We believe that Durham students deserve better than a menu of guided self-help and signposting as a first option, with dedicated ongoing support only available to a few.
“A ‘one size fits all’ model conflicts with the aim of emerging from university as fully rounded individuals who are equipped to contribute positively to the communities in which they work and live”.