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Counseling Center carries on in light of positive COVID-19 case

The USF Counseling Center is maintaining operations by providing online services to students. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/CHANGE.ORG

Even though the USF Counseling Center had USF’s first positive coronavirus (COVID-19) case, its operations are still up and running, remotely.

With the university implementing remote instruction for the remainder of the semester, all mental health services offered by the Counseling Center are provided entirely online. 

However, this was not because the Counseling Center staff member tested positive early last week. The department started offering online services last April. 

The unnamed employee had contact with 13 students as well as several other employees in the Counseling Center. The students and employees have been instructed to self-isolate for 14 days.

“The Florida Department of Health is investigating to determine how many people, including USF students and employees, had direct contact with the individual who tested positive,” university spokesperson Adam Freeman said in an email to The Oracle on Monday. “USF has not been made aware of any additional positive tests by students or employees at this time.”

Amid the unprecedented changes, students should pay close attention to their mental health and wellness, according to Director of the Counseling Center Scott Strader.

“I want to encourage students to be aware of how they’re feeling and how they’re adjusting to this new environment,” Strader said Monday.

“Maybe they’re running into some challenges where they might not have expected to reach out for help when they need it. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. We want to encourage people to do that when they feel like they need a little support.”

Through Zoom, a videoconference software program, students will be able to make appointments with a mental health provider remotely.

Before the first appointment, students will need to complete the initial paperwork online and then schedule the appointment by calling the Counseling Center at 813-974-2831.

Appointments are available weekdays and students are able to schedule a meeting with a health service provider the day of. 

The department provided counseling sessions to 30 students Monday and has 140 sessions scheduled for the remainder of the week, according to Strader.

“I think we are going to have some students, of course, who we’ve seen throughout the course of the semester who may be in a pretty good spot and feel like they don’t need to continue as we’ve transitioned to an online platform,” Strader said. 

“I think there’ll be other students who will be reaching out to us, so I’m ready for whatever students need.”

The Counseling Center has 35 clinicians available to students, from full-time staff to postdoctoral fellows and doctoral interns.

Initial appointments last about 30 minutes, according to Strader. The length of follow-up sessions depend on the type of treatment determined by the clinician.

Strader said the department started offering online services as a way to make counseling more convenient for students, especially for those living off campus.

“We started to work more with students who may not come to campus very often and who may be distance learners, or whose schedule really precludes them from getting into our offices on a regular basis to have services,” Strader said.

Despite the change, Strader said that student feedback has been mostly positive since it started offering online services.

“There’s a little bit of adjustment to kind of getting online and making sure everybody’s technology is working but the initial feedback we have received has been pretty positive,” Strader said.

Before the Counseling Center started offering online services, Strader said it required long hours of investigation as well as research into online platforms.

Despite changing the way services are delivered, Strader said the online platform is structured to meet students’ needs during this unprecedented period.

“Providing services to students at any time is crucial,” Strader said. “Right now, it is an uncertain time. We need to be available to students for whatever kinds of issues or concerns may come up for them.”