President and Vice President Elect Dillon Roseen and Brandie Banner, in conjunction with the Counseling Center, have announced a peer counseling initiative that would one day establish a program to train students to counsel their peers. The proposal which has been named the “Burdell’s Buddies,” and was outlined in a white paper composed by a small committee of students including Brandie Banner, Noel Webber, Sanat Monigi, Shahzar Mirza and Marnie Williams.
“It is important to note that this program is still in the planning process,” Webber said. “Both we and the staff of the Counseling Center realize that starting on the right foot is extremely important to making sure the program is successful in the future. Careful planning is essential and the consideration of the student body’s opinions and suggestions are of the utmost importance to this process.”
With the proposal still in the early planning phases, ideas have been laid out that both the committee and the Counseling Center have said they are open to.
The proposal focused heavily on the fact that the Counseling Center is short on resources overall. According to Dr. Ruperto Perez, the Director of the Counseling Center, it has been a slow process getting the resources necessary to serve the Tech community.
“Over the course of the nine years I’ve been here, we’ve been able to add two new positions. This is good, but it’s not where we should be in terms of our accreditation guidelines,” Perez said.
He went on to explain that, excluding himself, the Counseling Center staff comprised of 10 trained individuals and could definitely use at least four more additions.
The accreditation guidelines come at a national level from what the International Association of Counseling Services (IACS) outlines in their Standards for University and College Counseling Services. It states that “every effort should be made to maintain minimum staffing ratios in the range of one FTE professional staff member (excluding trainees) for every 1,000-1,500 students, depending on services offered.”
“The number of new students coming and seeking services has increased incrementally over the years… and so we see maybe now over 1000 new students each year coming in for services,” said Perez.
This overall displays the fact that the Counseling Center is seeing more students but unable to increase their resources to match.
The student committee that drafted the “Burdell’s Buddies” proposal list in their rationale that peer counseling would help reduce the negative stigma that some associate with the Counseling Center as well as lighten the load on the center by providing additional options for students to seek help.
As outlined in the White Paper, the role of a Burdell Buddy would include assisting with Counseling Center Outreach, increasing the awareness and visibility of the Counseling Center, dispelling stigmas about counseling and provide a less intimidating environment for students to seek help.
Banner explained how the committee wants Burdell’s Buddies to work closely with the Counseling Center because it would provide real opportunities for peer counselors to get more direct mentorship. Working with the Psychology department and various others would help Burdell’s Buddies go through extensive training before helping students.
According to the white paper, the immediate plan is to established a class that would allow a graduate student to teach mental health issues and various overviews of support. In one to three years that could transition into being a special topics class through CETL or the psychology department. Further down the line it would become a social science elective for major/class credit.
There are additional plans to expand both the Burdell’s Buddies program as well as offerings in the Counseling Center included in the proposal, but according to Dr. Perez, it’s not feasible in it’s entirety at this time.
“There are some viable aspects to the proposal and although its unlikely to be implemented as is right away there may be some aspects that are doable and we’re currently exploring some of these options,” Perez said.