Feeling anxious, depressed or just need someone to talk to? Psychological Counseling Services (PCS), located in Eickhoff Hall, offers free counseling services for students and faculty members.
PCS boasts a supportive and confidential environment for students who feel overwhelmed by the demands of schoolwork, their social or family lives, or personal issues. Students may take part in individual sessions, group counseling or both.
“One of the things that we try to present counseling as is a partnership,” Larry Gage, licensed counseling psychologist and assistant director for of counseling services, said. “Sometimes part of the work in the beginning is orientating people to what the counseling process is, which has to be a dialog and a relationship to work together.”
The PCS staff includes four full-time and one part-time counselor. In addition to Gage, the staff is composed of Carol Evangelisto, coordinator of clinical training, Hue-San Ahn, coordinator of outreach, Kathy Ertel, counselor, and Ann Fallon, clinicial educator.
Sarala Mundassery, a consulting psychiatrist, is also available for students who need medication.
Counselors try to discern if a group may fit the needs of a student rather than an individual session because of the added benefits of group talk.
Students in groups can meet up to 10 times in one semester while one-on-one sessions must be limited to eight per academic year because of the demand for counselors.
Often groups are developed for problems that are common. Each group is facilitated by two counselors or counselors in training and typically has six to eight students.
This semester, PCS is offering groups concerning sexual identity, racial identity, body image and dealing with parental death.
“One of the things that is wonderful about groups is the support you can receive not just from the facilitators, but your fellow students,” Gage said.
The process of applying to receive treatment at PCS is extensive but helpful to both the patient and the counselor because it serves as a jumping-off point for the sessions.
Students must fill out a form, which is available in the PCS offices and includes demographic information, a problem checklist and a social history questionnaire. If it is deemed suitable for a person to join a group, the additional step of a screening interview is taken.
“It looks like a lot and it is a lot,” Gage said. “We ask a lot. We want to inform. By the time someone arrives for counseling, the counselor they are meeting with has a chance to digest this information and can accelerate the therapy process.”
Online mental health screening is available at the PCS Web site. Although not a substitute for a professional evaluation, it screens the participant for the most common problems on campus – depression and bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders – and lets them know if they should make further inquiries to PCS.
According to Gage, the most prevalent problems are anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks, which appeared in 65 out of the 230 student cases PCS saw last semester.
Gage said he noticed a dramatic upsurge in the number of total cases as the school became more and more competitive.
Last semester there were about 230 students and 12-20 faculty members who took part in either group or individual sessions.
Additionally, 14 percent of the patients were referred to the psychiatrist when the counselor thought medication would help.
However, by no means is a student required to have a “serious” problem to take advantage of PCS. PCS encourages all students who have concerns to talk to a counselor.
Through its outreach program, PCS also encourages students who may know someone in distress to utilize PCS for information.
“Although suicide rates for college students is half what it is for college-aged folks who are not in college, it still is the third-leading cause of death for the age group, so that is a public health threat,” Gage said. “We want everyone to have the tools to intervene if that is the circumstance they find themselves in.”
PCS is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students should make appointments to be seen.
However, there is system of standby hours during the day so that there will be a counselor avaliable to see someone promptly who needs urgent care.
PCS is located in Eickhoff Hall 107, a space shared with Planned Parenthood and Health Services.
For more information, go to the PCS Web site at tcnj.edu/~sa/counseling/ or contact PCS via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at ext. 2247.