New technique informs counselors, assists students

An electronic form is helping meet students’ needs and facilitating counseling on campus.

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Counseling Services is requiring students to fill out a form prior to setting up a counseling appointment.

“Students who are using Counseling Services for the first time this academic year are asked to fill out a Client Information form,” Deirdre Dalsing, Director of University Counseling Services, said.

The confidential form assists Counseling Services in determining individual needs and offers counselors a starting point.

“This is the first year we’ve used the computer for this,” Jazon Artz, Counseling Services counselor, said. “Basically, it’s the same form we’ve always had students fill out, we’ve just moved it into the computer, which makes it easier to collaborate the data.”

“It provides us with historical information about the student,” Dalsing said. “It allows them to highlight areas of concern that they want to talk to the counselor about. Not a survey, just an information form based on previous history.”

Dalsing explained that the form asks specific questions about whether the student has problems with alcohol, whether others have been concerned about the student, if he or she is having problems with sexual violence or sexual assault and if the student has mental health issues or is taking medication, among others.

“We just want a better understanding of what students are here to talk about,” Dalsing said.

This marks only a small change in the way Counseling Services assists students.

“Students still check in at the Health Services front desk,” Peggy Hines, UCS counselor, said. “[From] there, they will be directed to the kiosk where the computer is so they can fill out the form.”

According to Dalsing, Counseling Services has been using an electronic record system for about four years. Last January, Counseling Services received the computers allowing students to go paperless with the form, putting the information directly into the records.

“So far we’ve had positive responses from students, as long as the computers are working,” Dalsing said.

“If the student can give us enough information before coming to us and seeing us, that’s really helpful to us,” Hines said.

UW-Platteville is part of a UW-System effort used to compare state data against national data.

“If a student comes in to talk about suicide, we can compare how many from Platteville come in for that compared to other schools across the nation,” Dalsing said. “It’s a collaborative effort.”

“It helps us get more resources if we notice a lot of people coming in for the same reason,” Hines said. “Maybe we can better train for that purpose or bring in people to help. It’s all confidential as well.”

The form asks for demographic information, veteran status, grade point average, background information and current concerns to help the Counseling Services staff better understand how they can help. If a student returns to speak to a counselor, he or she need not fill out the form again. The form is only to be completed the first time one visits for the academic year. The form is used to help counselors better understand what the student may like to discuss.

“It helps tremendously because I can spend more time with the student and not have to ask all these little questions, I can just focus on the concerns they are here for,” Hines said.