Cover Photo Image

Following the University's decision to move to online classes for the remainder of the Spring Semester, the Counseling Center’s initial time and efforts were dedicated to connecting with existing clients, individually assessing each student’s situation, and developing the most appropriate disposition (e.g. continued services through the Counseling Center, referral to a provider located near the student). 

Most of this contact occurred via phone, but within two weeks, we worked out the practical, technical, ethical, and legal issues associated with (1) the provision of telehealth services via videoconferencing and (2) the telesupervision of this treatment modality.  During that same time period, the Counseling Center continued to provide in-person services to students experiencing a mental health emergency (e.g. suicidality, homicidality, recent sexual assault or other serious trauma). 

For students receiving these in-person services, we adapted our two group rooms for individual counseling so that a safe social distance would be maintained between clinician and client.  After-hours crisis coverage remained unchanged, with on-campus students contacting our emergency clinician through the Office of Public Safety and off-campus students utilizing Harrisonburg resources.  On April 13, 2020, the Counseling Center opened its services to new clients through a telehealth platform. 

In this new service delivery model, students who sought clinical services for the first time were able to complete all necessary initial and subsequent documentation online. 

Additionally, the Counseling Center continued to actively engage in outreach efforts to provide support and psychoeducation to the campus community, largely through social media posts, and a newly created hub on the Counseling Center website.  Topics included lowering anxiety in times of uncertainty, remaining connected while practicing physical distancing, creating and maintaining a schedule, acceptance of negative things over which there is no control, and managing the stress of living at home while in college.

The Counseling Center utilizes the Counseling Center Assessment of Psychological Symptoms (CCAPS), a well-regarded, normed, 62-item assessment instrument with eight distinct subscales related to psychological symptoms and distress in college students.  Data from the CCCAPS indicated that:

  • When looking at initial distress, our clients’ distress levels were almost identical to the national average.
  • The clinicians at the JMU Counseling Center are providing high-quality services to clients, with clients improving at greater levels than the national average in almost every area. For example, students reporting high levels of initial distress improved more than the national average on six out of the eight clinical subscales.  Specifically related to factors that directly impact student academic success and retention, students reporting moderate and high levels of initial distress improved significantly more on the Academic Distress and Alcohol Abuse subscales than the national sample.

Despite the unique challenges brought by COVID-19, the Counseling Center’s walk-in (both literally, in the fall, and virtually, in the spring) service delivery model effectively provided access to services.  Further, the average wait time from a client’s initial assessment to the first counseling appointment was 5.4 days.  Ninety-seven percent of respondents to the Counseling Center's evaluation survey indicated that the wait time for their initial walk-in visit was a reasonable period of time. Other notable evaluation results included:

  • 100% indicated that the reception staff was helpful and professional
  • 97% reported that they were able to schedule follow-up appointments within a reasonable period of time frame
  • 100% reported that their counselor understood their concerns
  • 100% indicated that their counselor seemed skilled and competent
  • 100% reported that they felt that their information would be kept completely confidential
  • 93% indicated that they were now better prepared to work through future problems in healthy ways
  • 74% reported that counseling to improve their academic focus and performance (13% answered "N/A")
  • 75% indicated that, because of their work in counseling, they were more likely to stay at school (21% answered "N/A")

Back to Top