This semester, Albion College has vowed to keep campus sanitized and safe. Preparations for this semester began in March, when the college Counseling Services began implementing precautionary COVID-19 measures to prepare for students’ return to campus.
These preparations did not come without challenges. Dr. Frank Kelemen, director of Counseling Services said staff had a difficult time implementing new safety precautions for the Counseling Services building.
“We staffed the office for the remainder of the spring semester so that one clinician and our secretary/receptionist was in the office during regular business hours in case of an emergency” said Kelemen. “We continued to have a counselor on-call for after hour emergencies as usual.”
Part of the reason Counseling Services decided to make changes this semester was because of a HIPPA complaint found by IT research about the counseling building as a whole. As a team, Counseling Services took every measure to ensure the safety of all students and faculty in need of help according to Kelemen.
“Our staff attended numerous on-line webinars and trainings about the provision of services and ethics of telemental health,” said Kelemen.
Counseling Services new regulations to combat the virus do not stop with office distancing.
“We have moved from face-to-face appointments to telemental health appointments. We continue to be busy and we are currently seeing the request for appointments/kept appointments at the same rate as fall 2019,” said Kelemen. “We have noticed that whether at home or on campus, it is difficult for students to find private spaces for appointments which can be problematic.”
Kelemen said that movements to telehealth were made to suffice the needs of all students, which always come first at Counseling Services.
Despite the difficulty of implementing new regulations, the challenges of the new precautionary measures have prompted new learning experiences for counselors on campus.
“I think our biggest take away so far is that it is possible to do telemental health. Eight months ago, I don’t think that any of us would have believed that this was a possible, although not preferable, practice,” said Kelemen. “We have learned that we still can connect and work with our clients when working remotely, and we sometimes have more flexibility to schedule appointments which has been helpful because the class schedule is so packed.”
Kelemen also said that the staff has a close relationship and bond, and it is difficult to connect as much through virtual Zoom meetings. He said there was a special emphasis on connection during in-person meetings that is now different.
Despite the challenges, Kelemen said he sees this situation as temporary, and he looks forward to a tremendously strong relationship between clients and faculty in the future.
“We look forward to returning to life as usual, in our warm and welcoming office where we believe that students feel comfortable with our usual furniture in place, no Plexiglas shields, and most importantly once again meeting with our students for our appointments in person,” said Kelemen.