Ashton Norris

(Rock Hill, SC) — Winthrop University’s Health and Counseling Services has made a number of changes to its counseling program to adapt to the challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

One major change is that all counseling sessions during the fall semester are being conducted virtually and by appointment.

Health and Counseling Services is now using an online patient portal to schedule appointments and is no longer allowing walk-in visits.

“This semester, we are determined to keep people as socially distanced as possible, so we are getting rid of walk-in sessions until further notice,” said Jess Hudgens, a staff counselor.

“Instead, we have started using the Medicat patient portal to filter appointments and get everyone checked in at a reasonable time,” said Hudgens.

The patient portal is now open to all students, requiring only their Winthrop ID and username.

“I was really nervous to hear that walk-in sessions stopped this semester. The new website they’re using to schedule appointments is kind of confusing at first, but I got the hang of it quickly,” said junior Isabel Wallace, a graphic illustration major.

Wallace said she has been going to regular counseling sessions at in the Crawford Building since her freshman year.

“They really helped me to feel in control of my experience and staying on top of things,” said Wallace.

Counseling Services staff had hoped to offer in-person sessions this semester, but ultimately the decision was made to host the appointments virtually.

Although, some Health Services may be allowed in-person to meet a specific need, which is at the discretion of the nurse or nurse practitioner who would meet with the student.

“The staff wanted to make sure that students were still getting the proper attention they needed during this time, even with social distancing, and especially as COVID is causing more stress to them,” said Beverly Holbrook, a staff counselor for the Office of Victims Assistance.

However, Wallace said she would prefer counseling to happen in person.

“I don’t think Zoom meetings for counseling sessions would feel comfortable,” said Wallace.

Editor’s note: The audio portion of this story was filed before Winthrop Counseling and Health Services decided to host counseling sessions virtually.