MSU Denver counseling reaccreditation carries controversy

MSU Denver’s Counseling Center denied that it faced overwhelming demand in the wake of its reaccreditation by the International Association of Counseling Services this past November.

Counceling center executive director Gail Bruce-Sanfordsits in her office in the Tivoli on April 18. Photo by Lauren Cordova |

“I would not say that we were overwhelmed, I would say that we saw an increase in demand,” said Gail Bruce-Sanford, executive director of the counseling center.

In an article from April 22, The Metropolitan reported that the counseling center faced overwhelming demand. To address this problem, the center brought in four student practicums last spring to help with the workload. Those students have all since moved on to different practices.

Students face an increased amount of stress and pressure to finish strong as deadlines loom. Mental health plays an important role in achieving the desired outcome for students. Anxiety can be hard to deal with as the semester ends. For some, dealing with anxiety is as easy as listening to music or watching their favorite movie. For others, they may need to talk to someone about it.

Student counseling centers are an outlet for students who struggle to cope with a wide range of problems. They are provided at the majority of four-year universities around the country. They tackle issues from academic stress to financial pressures. The center is designed to help students through difficult times by providing a safe space to discuss their problems.

The center undergoes accreditation from the IACS every eight years to ensure it continues to meet the standards required for it to continue offering valuable services to students. The counseling center has operated under the IACS accreditation to date.

The IACS accredits counseling services to universities across the country. The panel consists of an advisory panel of educators.

“There are legions of standards universities are required to uphold, yet the category we look at most carefully, are the ethical standards,” said panel member Jeff Prince, director of counseling and psychological services at the University of California, Berkeley.

MSU Denver was granted accreditation for another year as they have met all the standards under the IACS. Some of the standards that the counseling center is judged on are its relationship to the university community, its roles and function, service personnel, special concerns and guidelines.

Bruce-Sanford said that despite the hiccup regarding increased demand, the MSU Denver counseling center has never faltered in fulfilling the comprehensive standard of care.

“There was never a waitlist, we have always offered same day appointments,” she said.

Mady Smarr, a former student at MSU Denver, faced a suicidal episode halfway into the semester. She approached the counseling center nearly a month after the episode happened.

“When I called the counseling center, they told me it would be at least a two week wait,” she said. “When I mentioned that I was working with the CARE team, they got me in two days after I called.”

Smarr started working with MSU Denver’s Consultation Assessment Referral Education team on Oct. 4. CARE gets involved when a student’s behavior is flagged by faculty or staff as risky or concerning. She said that she was able to get an appointment with the counseling center toward the end of October.

Smarr said that the episode taking place nearly a month from when she sought help may have made her a lower-profile case for the counseling center. She added that the center said they could always squeeze her in for a few minutes if she had an episode on campus.

Staff members at The Metropolitan have made calls to the center to try to schedule appointments. The wait time varied, typically between one and two months. The center did offer faster appointments for crisis situations.

Currently the center staffs eight full-time licensed therapists. One of the eight is a psychotherapist.

The counseling center maintains a positive success rate. They highlight testimonials from students who have taken advantage of its services.

“During a period of stress where my personal life wasn’t going great, the counseling center helped me put things in perspective and prevented a panic attack,” said Sarah Jones, an English major at MSU Denver.

Two hundred students currently take advantage of the center’s resources. With more counselors and its high standard of care, MSU Denver should not experience a overwhelming shortage again.


Additional reporting by Esteban Fernandez

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