Counseling center meets high needs


Photo by James Kuepper
Photo by James Kuepper

Halfway into the fall semester, there are already more students seeking counseling than there were throughout all of the fall 2015 semester.

Joe Loizzo, LISW, director of the Wellness Center at Franciscan University, said that this year’s numbers are unprecedented. Historically, each year there has been about a 10 percent increase in requests for counseling from the year before. This year’s increase may look more like 27 percent. Last fall, 197 students sought counseling. This fall, already, 208 students have requested counseling, and several are on a waitlist.

“It’s like this all over the country,” Loizzo expressed. “I was doing some comparisons with counseling center directors all across the country, and they all said they were seeing a huge increase with this current generation of college students.”

Loizzo added, “It’s awesome that students know these resources are here, and that they come and ask for help. All of that is wonderful. The challenge we’re facing is how to meet the need.”

In response to the heightened demand, Loizzo and the Wellness Center staff have been continuously elevating their available resources.

“We’re adding staff, we’re increasing staff hours,” said Loizzo. “I hired one additional staff member part time, I increased another person’s hours – they went from working four days a week to five days a week. We’re maximizing everything we can possibly do.”

Current counseling staff includes eight graduate students doing counseling, four graduate students doing mentoring, and one priest, Loizzo said. He added that the counselor-to-student ratio is incredibly high in comparison to other small private schools in the country.

In the past year, the Wellness Center team has converted an athletic locker room into a room to be used for counseling part-time, and has relocated the doctor’s office so that room could be used for counseling as well. And this year, for the first time, the Counseling Center is open two nights a week.

“We’re operating at maximum capacity,” said Loizzo. “We’re throwing out all the resources we possibly can, and we still have students on a waiting list.”

One additional resource this semester has been group counseling sessions, Loizzo said. Currently there are four groups running, each focused on a various topic. There are six to seven people in each group.

“From all the feedback I’ve heard, they are really enjoying the groups,” Loizzo said of participants. “It’s meeting a need, and we don’t have to see those people individually, because they’re in the group sessions.”

Loizzo strongly encouraged students to take part in groups, and expressed a hope that students who are involved in groups would encourage their friends to join as well.

“I amazed by how open students here are,” Loizzo said, referring to the willingness he’s seen in students to share with their peers their struggles as well as the fact that they’re seeking help through counseling.

Ultimately, of course, Loizzo’s goal is for students to be able to get the help they need. He encouraged students to sign up for counseling if they feel it would be beneficial and to not be deterred by the waitlist, and to be open to participating groups.

“We don’t want students hanging out there and really needing to talk to somebody, and we don’t have the resource,” Loizzo said. “That’s not a good thing.”