THE NETHERLANDS/MAASTRICHT. Interstedelijk Studentenoverleg (ISO) and the Dutch Association of Psychologists (Nederlands Instituut van Psychologen, NIP) have concluded that there are too few psychological counsellors for students at a number of Dutch universities and other institutes of higher education. There are long waiting lists especially at universities of applied sciences, sometimes even as long as three months. A Maastricht student has to wait several weeks for a talk with a counsellor. At the moment, the number of UM counsellors in the team is being increased.
On a national level, the number of students seeking help from a psychological counsellor has risen. Complaints have, on average, also become more serious. “I recognise the trend that more students are seeking psychiatric help,” says Mieke Jansen, head of the psychological counsellor team at the UM. “I can’t say that there is one main cause. But the number of appeals to counsellors has increased across the Netherlands the last few years. Just to give you an idea, in the first half of 2016 we have already had 1,283 consults, 200 more than the year before.”
Possible causes for the increase, according to the survey held among 35 psychological counsellors for students: the binding study advice and the introduction of the study loan system. Dutch universities on an average have 3.08 FTEs for counsellors. For universities of applied science, the average is 1.94 full-time jobs. ISO and NIP advise Dutch universities of applied science and general universities to invest more in this field. Exactly how many additional psychological counsellors for students ISO would like to see appointed, is not clear. Chairman Jan Sinnige: “We don’t have a specific ratio in mind.”
Jansen emphasises that as much as possible is being done to keep Maastricht psychological counsellors accessible and to lower the threshold. “We are expanding from 2.5 to 3 FTEs, we also offer fear-of-failure, time management and mindfulness courses. UM students can make an appointment with a counsellor online, without a referral and at no cost. Because this is always a busy period of the year, we have a waiting list of a few weeks, but urgent intakes are always available immediately. We have also improved the intake procedure by creating an online form instead of a paper version that is filled in during the first appointment. In that way, we have a clearer picture of a student before the appointment.”
Sjoerd Willen / HOP, Hein Cuppen