Finding long-term counseling shouldn’t be this hard

Ayla Musharrif

Though the Counseling and Mental Health Center has many helpful resources, one of its most important aspects is extremely underdeveloped –– long-term counseling. 

At the start of the spring semester, I reached out to a Brief Assessment and Referral program counselor at the CMHC in hopes of getting placed with a therapist. The counselor informed me that I needed long-term therapy, which UT doesn't provide. However, she promised she would send me a list of counselors based on my preferred gender, insurance and counseling needs.

When I received the list, I found that one of the counselors was in court and that the closest counselor was a 40-minute bus ride away. Eventually, the process became too frustrating, so I gave up. 

Finding long-term counseling at UT is challenging. The Brief Assessment and Referral program counselor didn’t consider transportation access or my counseling needs. The CMHC should work closely with students and student organizations to implement a counselor-patient matching program that addresses a greater variety of student needs and ensures that students are matched with an accessible therapist. 

I am not the only one who has felt frustrated. Alex Arredondo, speech-language pathology sophomore, said she suffers from OCD, depression and anxiety. For her, getting a therapist quickly was necessary.

“The therapists were far away and the process was just too (frustrating), so I waited and I didn't get to see my usual therapist till December,” Arredondo said. 

For students like Arredondo, having access to long-term counseling is vital. As the official mental health service on campus, the CMHC needs to make sure all students are getting the help they need. 

The CMHC's long-term counseling process needs to drastically improve so students come out of the process feeling relieved rather than frustrated. 

Dr. Marla Craig, the associate director for clinical services at the CMHC, said there are challenges with offering long-term counseling on campus. 

“We can’t do it all ourselves,” Dr. Craig said. “We don’t have as many counselors for the majority of students that need our care.”

Nevertheless, she said the CMHC is working on potential solutions such as expanding their case management program, reaching out to more therapists and creating a more user-friendly therapy database for students. 

While all of these potential solutions sound great, Dr. Craig said that most are in the early stages of development. It will take time to bring these ideas to fruition, and it is unlikely that the CMHC will implement them before the next school year.

A student venture, Psykhe, started to address the problem in the fall of 2019. Psykhe was started by UT student Mansi Parikh through the Social Entrepreneurship Learning Lab. She started the company to tackle the lack of long-term counseling at UT by creating a thorough matching process between students and therapists. The matching process considers therapy approaches, students' needs, ethnicity, gender, distance and other factors.

Parikh said teaming up with the CMHC is something her team will definitely look into, but they haven't made any decisions yet. Dr. Craig said she would love to collaborate with students.

“Sometimes students have the best ideas since they are involved in the process,” Dr. Craig said. 

With the help of student ventures like Psykhe, the CMHC can drastically improve the process students must go through to find counseling by the next school year. 

With the political turmoil and the pandemic, it is more important than ever that CMHC fixes its counseling process before the next school year so that numerous students like Arredondo and myself can come back knowing that our mental health is a priority.

You can visit the CMHC website here to learn more about its resources, or call the CMHC 24/7 crisis hotline here.

Musharrif is a psychology and economics sophomore from Houston, Texas.