ICYMI: Our previous blog post was an interview with Siena’s Director of Health Promotion Katie Kaufman Burns, all about our Office of Health Promotion and the efforts they’re putting forth to increase and evolve our resources for Gen Z. You’ve heard from Kate. Now hear from Dr. Nate. 

Nate T. Pruitt, Ph.D., is the director of the Counseling Center here and a licensed psychologist. He’s taught several undergrad and graduate courses and has done extensive research on topics like building emotional resilience in college students and the opportunities and challenges of working at a faith-based school.

What are the latest trends when it comes to college counseling? How has Siena responded? 

Demand for counseling appointments at colleges and universities around the United States has risen sharply in the past fifteen years. Specifically, the demand has outpaced enrollment growth by 500% according to a large and ongoing research study at Penn State University. Siena has not been an exception to these trends. We have seen more students this year already (with three weeks to go!) than we did in 2017-2018, and 17-18 was more than 16-17.  We have also experienced a sharp increase in urgent appointments, about half of which involve suicidal ideation.  

Because of those numbers, Siena added a fourth clinician to the Counseling Center staff. Second, about two years ago, Siena created the Department of Health Education and Promotion (Kate's department). Kate does skill-building sessions on anxiety, anger and suicide prevention. She also does one-to-one dialogues about risk reduction regarding alcohol and substance abuse. Kate's sessions have been well-attended and she is working on expanding her programming for next year with the help of Siena students. 

How does the Counselor Center work together with Kate and the greater Siena community?

We talk to the Community Assistants about making referrals to counseling (which they do), and we are open to consultations with faculty and staff about working with students about whom they are concerned. Kate has also been offering those drop-in sessions. Some Counseling Center clients attend, but it's a great way to connect to students who would never agree to go to counseling. Our number one presenting concern at the Counseling Center is anxiety so we are always looking for new ways to connect with students on this issue.  

What does the research show about the impact mental health can have on college students and their academic performance? 

Research has been very consistent that students who attend to their mental health / physical health are happier and healthier. They are also better students. A recent large study suggested that "psychological adjustment" in high school was a much better predictor of grades in college than SAT scores.  Some evidence also suggests that students who address their mental health needs are less likely to drop out of college (mental health is a leading cause of college drop-out).  

What would you want prospective students and parents to know, should they choose to join Siena’s community?

The easy answer is that I would want the parents and students to know that we have a great team that tries hard to meet the needs of Siena students. We continue to adjust policies and procedures to find the balance between trying providing quick access to appointments versus ongoing care of students who would like / require a lot of appointments.  

Learn more about Siena’s Counseling Center now.