Counseling Center Goes Digital with Remote Services


Colgate University

Conant House is the on-campus headquarters for Counseling and Psychological Services. The group therapy sessions normally hosted there are now being hosted by Zoom.

The Office of Counseling and Psychological Services is working around limitations in providing services and resources to students through online learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Director of Counseling and Psychological Services and Director of Sexual Violence Support Dawn LaFrance, the services they can offer are limited because the counselors on staff are certified in New York State and cannot legally provide psychotherapy to a patient residing in a different state. 

They are able to provide telehealth consultations and check-ins, according to LaFrance, but these are limited to approximately 30 minutes. Along with individual telehealth check-ins, the counseling center continues already-established weekly therapy groups throughout the semester and continues to offer 24/7 crisis services, as well as consultations and referrals to resources in students’ home areas. They have also begun offering four weekly drop-in groups pertaining to mental hurdles exacerbated by the pandemic, such as anxiety and managing family relationships. 

First-year Dora Mendelson expressed her frustration with these restrictions.

“I’m just very unsatisfied with what the counseling center has provided during this time,” Mendelson said. “I think I definitely need more support now than ever.”

Sophomore Nicole Weiss said she feels continued group therapy options provided by the counseling center maintain a similar level of support, but fail to provide the environment of in-person counseling at Conant House.

“I think a Zoom group versus group in person doesn’t feel much different; the only difference I’d say is the [lack of the] comforting environment of the counseling center. [A virtual meeting] doesn’t feel like as much of an escape,” Weiss said.

Counseling Center staff contacted every student regularly receiving care during the extended spring break about the upcoming options to provide a sense of continuity. LaFrance said she hopes to welcome new faces into her virtual office during this turbulent period. 

“We are happy to meet new students in our telehealth capacity who we’ve never met before. I know students who have used our service are more likely to approach us, but we really want to reach out to other students as well because we can help problem-solve,” LaFrance said. 

LaFrance offered advice to those struggling with social distancing and self isolation guidelines, suggesting they try to create some structure in the day to make things seem purposeful, and to include some form of activity within that structure. She also suggested unplugging from social media and the news when feeling overwhelmed. 

“I think really focusing on our controllables, what we can control, and then acknowledging the things we can’t [can be helpful],” LaFrance said. “[We shouldn’t be] spending all of our time in that area, because that can lead to anxiety and fear and sadness.”

LaFrance said she is looking ahead to next semester and how to handle the eventual transition back to campus. She plans to continue telehealth appointments for students staying in Hamilton over the summer until they can resume face to face meetings, but suggests that students off campus form a relationship with a closer source of care if they are able.

“I’m so hopeful that this won’t continue,” LaFrance said. “But if we do continue, I would like to get the word out more.” 

Registration for drop-in groups, individual Telehealth check-ins and access to more information about support resources and services offered during the COVID-19 pandemic is located on the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services page. Haven, Colgate’s sexual violence reponse center and an extension of the counseling center, is offering survivor support counseling through the counseling center’s group and individual appointment services. The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program is continuing at Community Memorial Hospital throughout the pandemic and can assist survivors in contacting an advocate. Shaw Wellness Institute is still offering remote appointments for drug and alcohol-related counseling with their AD for Alcohol & Drug Services, but is unable to offer nutritionist appointments at this time, according to Program Coordinator Vicki Coates.