Baylor counseling center continues with online services

Sharon Still works the front desk at the Baylor Counseling Center located in the SLC on the second floor. The counseling center announced its move to be online Monday, making them available to students across the nation. Brittney Matthews | Multimedia Editor

By Phoebe Alwine | Reporter

Baylor’s counseling center has adapted its treatments amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. With faculty and staff working from home, the counselors have begun counseling sessions via phone and WebEx, a platform for video-conferences.

In an email sent out Monday, President Linda Livingstone said that the counseling services would still be available without in-person sessions.

“As announced last week, the Counseling Center will serve students via technology connections through the remainder of the semester,” Livingstone said.

The Dean of Student Health and Wellness and Executive Director for Counseling Services Dr. Jim Marsh said that even with Waco’s shelter-in-place policy, the counseling center is still conducting business as usual. Marsh said that sessions will be by phone or WebEx.

“Our services are being offered through basically what we call “Telehealth” services so we are still providing counseling, still providing consultations to provide crisis services to students, via phone or through WebEx to provide video conferences,” Marsh said.

Marsh said that the center has been able to adapt quickly to the new normal.

“I would say it’s been a good learning curve, I think. I think some of the timing was pretty quick, right, we, we have been thinking about this for a while, and we have been putting some things in place,” Marsh said. “So, so we had a plan for how to do this, we just had to accelerate the plan.”

Marsh said that the staff is still working with students and anyone who calls to receive counseling.

“It’s just that we’re all operating from home, we’re all working from home, but technology still allows us to access our records and we can see our records,” Marsh said. “Technology allows us to connect with our students who we meet with on a regular basis.”

Marsh said that students who want to sign up for their first counseling sessions can contact the counseling center at (254)-710-2467, a 24/7 answering system.

“If there’s a student who has never been to us before but they want to start counseling, we are set up to do that,” Marsh said.

While the counseling center staff is still accessible, there are some changes. Marsh said that while one-on-one counseling is still available, group sessions have been cancelled due to potential confidentiality breaches. Marsh also explained how students residing outside the state of Texas may not be able to speak with Baylor’s counselors due to laws governing their ability to practice along state lines.

“Yeah we aren’t going to be doing [group sessions],” Marsh said. “We’ve thought about it but part of it is that it’s hard to guarantee confidentiality.”

He said that technology has been a great outlet for the counselors.

“Being able to have the technology and still see someone and pick up their body language is very helpful,” Marsh said.