Transitioning to college is a challenging time, full of new relationships, academics, and adjustments. Navigating the following four years of college, which often involves joining the workforce and comfort zones being challenged, can be just as difficult. For students with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, borderline personality, eating disorders and more, these transitions and difficulties can be overwhelming and affect day-to-day and moment-to-moment life.
A key part of success for students struggling with mental health issues is access to therapy, yet therapy is limited due to high costs (especially in Santa Barbara), time requirements, and at Westmont, the session limits. Therefore, for the greatest benefit of students, and in turn, the university, Westmont needs to allocate more resources to its counseling services. Westmont’s Counseling and Psychological Services, also known as CAPS, provides both accessible and cost-friendly therapy, but for the short term. While Westmont’s free six sessions may help students in need of support during transitional times, it can hinder healing for those affected by deeper mental health issues. Students struggling with depression and anxiety are more likely to withdraw from their community, perform lower on assessments and in classes, and use alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms.
With only six free sessions a semester, long-term problems are barely touched upon and students leave having received partial treatment. They are forced to restart the long and exhausting process of finding a therapist, working to make connections with that therapist, and establishing a new relationship. In order for therapy to be effective, it is key to establish a foundation of trust so that patients feel safe and comfortable to share their struggles. It takes an average client around 3-5 sessions to even begin to feel comfortable with a therapist. With only six free sessions at Westmont, patients forge an authentic connection, only for it to be severed. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that “the number of therapy sessions the patients had was directly correlated to improvements in symptoms. Long term therapy was significantly superior to shorter term [therapy].”
Additionally, the average cost of a therapy session in Santa Barbara is $60-$120, with some as expensive as $250 and even $500. Bottom line, therapy is expensive. For many people seeking long term mental health treatment, just three months of weekly therapy (12 sessions) can, on average, set you back over $1000. Additionally, re-hashing everything with a new therapist can trigger PTSD and further existing depression and anxiety. According to Wesmtont’s tuition and fees breakdown, out of our $61,240 tuition, $550 goes towards all health. If students were to see a therapist weekly for one semester (15 weeks), at the average rate of $90/session, that would be $900, which can then be a part of our over $60,000 tuition.
While allocating more resources to the counseling center may be expensive, the expense will benefit not only the students, but the college overall. Additionally, with Westmont being rooted in Christian values, it is first and foremost the duty of the college and the community to care for the children of Christ — mental health included.