Counseling services at FAMU not for everyone

The Office of Counseling Services is located in the CASS building. Photo courtesy: Kennidi Harvey

Florida A&M’s Office of Counseling Services’ mission is to guarantee a welcoming, confidential and professional atmosphere where you can discuss any issues you are experiencing. It also stresses to students that they are “here for you from orientation to graduation.”

There are many different types of counseling services provided by FAMU including group counseling and workshops, but the most popular is individual counseling.

On the counseling services website it has detailed descriptions on the expectations, the importance, your eligibility and what individual counseling consists of. It highlights all personal reasons that their counselors are supposed to have been taught to handle on their website such as sexual assault, relationships, depression, anger management and more.

Third-year broadcast journalism student Pam Rentz had her first experience with the Office of Counseling Services in fall 2019. She reached out at the beginning of the semester and was told she would have to wait five to six weeks before she could meet with anyone for an individual session.

Due to the timeliness of the matter Rentz canceled her appointment considering the issue wouldn’t be relevant one month later.

“It’s very off-putting to know that the free services provided are not timely,” Rentz said, “which the wait can make whatever you’re going through worse during those six weeks.”

During the waiting period the counseling services encourages students to seek out others to talk to like a friend or family member. Rentz said if it isn’t your friends’ job, nor are they qualified to give you advice and help you make the best decisions over your life.

A year after her first experience with the services, Rentz reached out again. This time her wait time was about 25 days to meet with a counselor. Her counselor was upfront about what she specialized in, which was adolescent, relationship counseling, anxiety, depression, and peer pressure. While Rentz’s counselor covered many bases, she didn’t cover what she needed help with which was a problem included on the office’s website with all the personal reasons they covered.

“Speaking with my counselor helped to an extent. It got to a point where I had to stop seeing her because she couldn’t help me anymore,” Rentz said.

The Office of Counseling Services declined to answer questions from The Famuan and it did not reply to emails requesting a response.

Third-year psychology student Amiya Bowers had a completely different experience with the counseling services. She initially reached out to the counseling services in fall 2020, out of pure curiosity, she said. As a psychology student she wanted to experience the process first-hand. She also felt like it would be a good place where she could talk about things she wouldn’t normally share with other people.

She chose individual counseling, and her wait time to see someone was two to three weeks. She met with her counselor via Zoom on a consistent schedule after her first meeting for the rest of the school year, because of the pandemic.

Her counselor was an HBCU graduate and  knew all the struggles attending an HBCU came with.

“It was very beneficial,” Bowers said, “I’m glad I had a professional, unbiased figure to provide me with good advice, who knew what I was going through.”

Bowers eventually stopped meeting with her counselor when the school year came to an end.

Both Rentz and Bowers sought help through the Office of counseling Services. But how effective is FAMU’s program?

Based on recent interviews with students, it seems the Office of Counseling Services is both effective and ineffective. There shouldn’t be topics on its website that some counselors are not prepared to cover. There also shouldn’t be such an extensive waiting period for an initial meeting with a counselor.

On the other hand, there are those students who take full advantage of their services and come out better at the end.