College Counseling Service Conference

In the last several years, college counseling services across the country have seen an increase in the number of students seeking treatment, an increase in the range and severity of student problems and a broadening of the role of the counseling service. In 2002, at the request of the director of the Bennington College Counseling Center, the Erikson Institute held a working conference for Bennington’s regional counseling service network.  Since then, this day-long workshop has been held every fall in partnership with regional counseling services. 

In that first conference, Bennington staff wanted to discuss the sudden increase in the use of psychoactive medication by incoming students.  The Erikson Institute designed, hosted and led that conference with Bennington as co-sponsor.  As a working conference, we focused our discussions on what the students might be telling us in their behavior and what we were telling them in ours.  Subsequent conferences have examined a range of issues, including the frame for treatment, what’s developmental and what’s clinical, and the college student goes to the hospital. 

Over time, the recognition that counseling services hold precious data for the college itself led counseling service directors to invite college administration.  Deans, residence directors, chaplains, a lawyer, even a student attended conferences.  An interesting design was developed in which homogeneous role groups (e.g., all deans) from different schools met to discuss shared concerns, followed by heterogeneous teams from different schools discussing a mock vignette, followed by a return to one’s own school team to discuss what had been learned. 

Presentations related to these conferences have been made at the New England College Health Association and the American College Health Association meetings.  Because the conference is small and focused on a specific network of counseling services, attendance is by invitation. However, the Erikson Institute is available to help other colleges organize conferences for their own networks.  For more information contact: erikson@austenriggs.net.