Being prejudiced against almost all non-faculty hiring at Williams, I was concerned that having 15 therapists on staff (as compared to, I think, only 5 a few years ago) was a bad thing, a sign of our ever-increasing college bureacracy. I was wrong, as this excellent student comment makes clear.

Assuming the questions about mental health services were asked in good faith:

-I believe a figure I’ve seen on IWS (Integrative Wellbeing Services, the official name for Williams’ mental health services) is that 1/3 of students make use of their services.

-I have no idea what is included in this. IWS offers a whole host of different opportunities to engage with their therapists: there’s regular scheduled therapy, as well as psychiatry, but also walk-in hours where you might go to discuss a one-off problem, as well as group therapy. I would imagine all these various types of engagement would be included in the engagement figure, but I don’t know.

-Regardless, it’s very much a significant portion of campus that engages with IWS.

-Getting anecdotal here and for the rest of the post: we are not, in my opinion, at the level of comfort on campus that I’d necessarily know if a given friend or acquaintance of mine had scheduled appointments with a therapist. What I can say is that, when awkwardly sitting in the waiting room for my therapist appointments, I’d always be rather surprised by who I’d see there; it was truly a cross-section of campus.

-A large number of the therapists employed by Williams are post-graduate fellows here for only two years. I imagine this is a pretty big cost-saving factor; it’s also the case that these fellows tend to make up more of the therapists of color and, of course, younger therapists, which are sometimes factors that students specifically request in being scheduled with a therapist.

-I truly may be misremembering, and this is again something where I don’t know what goes into the figure. But I believe, at my first meeting with my therapist, he told me that on average students who have recurring therapy sessions will end up using about 10 sessions of therapy. Theoretically, however, therapy sessions are unlimited. This is very much not the case at other schools; at several of my friends’ Ivy League institutions, students will get something like 6 sessions during their entire time at the school, before they’re forced to seek off-campus care. I personally have very much benefitted from knowing that I had access to as many sessions as I needed during my entire time at Williams. I went through semesters of seeing and not seeing a therapist, dealing with different issues, switching therapists as needed. I was incredibly grateful that I didn’t have to also worry about budgeting out my therapy.

-The argument that students won’t have this level of therapy in the “real world” and thus shouldn’t at Williams, is absolutely absurd. First–isn’t a frequent selling point of Williams that, here, students have easy access to things they won’t have such easy access to for the rest of their lives, such things being not only academic (easy access to professors, libraries, etc) but also social (easy access to all friends living within five minutes of you, etc)? Second–therapy isn’t some rare and impossible thing to find in the “real world.” It can be hard based on price, insurance, all that. But here’s the thing–because of the easy access to therapists I had at Williams, I realized how important regularly seeing a therapist is to my well being. As such, I’m going to make it a part of my life after Williams, moreso than I would have had I not had such access; I’ll set aside money, perhaps choose my health insurance plan, based on making sure I can see a therapist. I’ve also learned what I benefit from in a therapist (what styles of therapy, what traits I look for in a therapist in a way for me), because I could see as many different therapists as many times as I wanted. This is going to save me a lot of money that I otherwise would have wasted out there in that “real world” trying out therapists for several sessions only to realize they aren’t as beneficial as they could be.

1) Thanks to this student for taking the time to make this thorough comment. Do other readers have first hand experiences, good or bad, with IWS? Tell us about them!

2) You have convinced me! I am now comfortable with Williams having 15 therapists on staff.

3) As always, more transparency would be good. The Record ought to write about IWS and how it has changed over the last decade, and Williams ought to provide enough data to tell that story accurately.

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