Lehigh’s Counseling and Psychological Services has been working to provide more efficient resources for students at home during quarantine.
The biggest challenge for the center right now is not being able to hold group therapy sessions online, said Ian Birky, director of Counseling and Psychological Services.
The counseling center has been using Zoom to provide their services, but Birky said group sessions over Zoom are difficult when trying to manage confidentiality and privacy.
As students have relocated across the country, licensed psychologists have run into issues conducting group therapy across state borders in states that they are not licensed in, Birky said.
“If somebody is in Hawaii and somebody is in Denver, and somebody is in Minneapolis, and I’m not licensed in those states, then I am doing something illegal and unethical to provide that,” Birky said.
Birky said he believes Zoom therapy possesses the same potential for success as face-to-face therapy, and said this online experience may positively change mental health care in the future.
He said Zoom has been working well, but the audio or visuals cut out in the sessions sometimes because not everyone has the bandwidth to sustain the calls.
“This is a matter of privilege, depending where you’re at and what you can afford,” Birky said. “But for the most part, Zoom, what we call ‘telemental health services,’ are working really, really well.”
Birky said he wants students to know that anger and frustration during this time is normal. They may feel alone, but Birky said reaching out to friends and checking up on them can provide comfort and company.
Gabrielle Rocchino, a graduate assistant in Counseling and Psychological Services, said she runs a workshop, “Live Better, Stress Less,” which meets hourly at least two times per week.
“Live Better, Stress Less workshop has now been revamped to be able to be delivered virtually, but it’s also been changed a bit to offer some more space for people to connect,” Rocchino said.
She said she encourages students to stay connected with one another during this time.
Elena Cucco, staff psychologist of Counseling and Psychological Services, said their numbers have decreased slightly in regard to the amount of students still receiving services through Lehigh’s counseling center.
“I would imagine the (decreased numbers) are because our Lehigh students are pretty resilient, and because they have gone back to the places where they have the closest-knit social networks,” Cucco said.
Birky said it is important to take this time to communicate with each other, especially when handling any increased stress.
Birky suggested “social distancing” should be changed to “physical distancing,” because he said he believes it’s crucial to stay in contact with friends, regardless of whether or not people can see one another.