17 January 2019 • HNTB, Ingrid Nolet
Waiting times for student psychologist brought down
“The student psychologist is a fantastic individual, but the surrounding process leaves a lot to be desired.” These are the words of Thijs Weber (23), a fifth-year student of Mechatronics, who had to wait for two rounds of examinations until he had his first appointment with the psychologist at THUAS. “It makes you wonder whether they really take your problems seriously.”
Burn-out, concentration problems, panic attacks – more and more students are suffering from psychological conditions. This is a development across the entire nation that we are also seeing at THUAS. Thijs knows from various friends that they see a psychologist once in a while. A short time ago, he had his first appointment with the student psychologist at THUAS. “I still don’t know what was wrong, but all of a sudden I couldn’t cope, and I didn’t know what I could do about it.”
Thijs’ lecturers saw that he was struggling. “They asked me what was wrong and encouraged me to go to talk to someone.” Thijs first went to see the academic career counsellor. He then went to the student counsellor who referred him to the student psychologist. “That was a big step, but I was happy that I would be getting help. I knew that I would not manage alone.” However, Thijs’ relief was short lived. It soon turned out that he would have to wait no less than ten weeks for his first appointment.
Exams went really badly
Long waiting times have a demoralising effect. “You indicate that you need help, otherwise you wouldn’t be going to a psychologist. If they then leave you waiting, it seems as if they are not taking your problems seriously”, said Thijs. “It often made me wonder whether there was still any sense in continuing with my studies. I really enjoy the Mechatronics degree programme and I’m also very comfortable in Delft, but I have gone through two exam periods without any help. Well, of course those exams went really badly.”
Fortunately, Thijs is an active student. He is a member of the General Council and enjoys getting involved with matters regarding students. “During an educational conference with the Executive Board, I brought up the subject of the long waiting times. I was able to tell them my story and they recognised the problem. It turned out I was not the only person who had complaints. It’s good that they listen, but it’s especially good that they follow up their words with action.” The Executive Board introduced two measures immediately.
The first measure was that the team of psychologists was expanded with a 0.6 FTE. That means 24 hours of extra help from a psychologist each week. Secondly, the psychologists now receive administrative and organisational support so they have more time left for their core task, namely conversing with students. Thijs thinks that these measures will certainly help. “Not only will there be more time, but the time they do have available will also be used more effectively.” And that has proven to be true – the waiting times have since been brought down.
Pressure to perform
The Executive Board will be keeping the measures in place for the time being until summer 2019. These will then be evaluated, after which it will become clear whether there will be a follow-up. For Thijs, the measures have come too late. Together with his parents and the student psychologist, he decided to see a regular psychologist. However, he is happy for his fellow students. “Many people feel the pressure to perform, to not built up debts and to gain a good internship or job. So it’s good if they can see someone quickly for help.”
Thijs can now talk with relative ease about his problems, but this was not always the case. “It’s still a bit of a taboo to admit that you are unable to do something yourself. I can still remember how it was a huge step for me to go from high school to the university of applied sciences. All of a sudden I was responsible for myself, which was something I had never learned. However, this was something I didn’t dare tell anyone at the time. It’s different now. My tip is to be honest with yourself and talk about anything that troubles you. Talk with your friends, your parents, or with the student psychologist!”
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Thijs Weber: “The student psychologist is a fantastic individual, but the surrounding process leaves a lot to be desired.”