Short-Staffed? Supplement Full-Time Mental Health Providers Without Sacrificing Quality

Posted: December 09, 2022

During this busy time of the year, college counseling centers experience an influx of mental health utilization and an increased strain on the staff, putting many providers at risk for burnout. 

College and university campuses rarely have enough counselors to fulfill demand, but it becomes even more challenging amid finals, the holiday season, and the impending winter break, at which time many students experience a disruption in counseling support.

To fulfill the mental health needs of students, close gaps in provider capacity, and ensure continuation throughout the break, many counseling centers consider alternative solutions.

Referring Students to Local Providers Prevents Many Students from Accessing Care

When campus counseling centers are short-staffed, an obvious solution is to refer students to local providers who aren’t affiliated with the school. While this might seem like an easy solution, there are several drawbacks that can negatively impact the level and quality of care that students receive.

Not only is it hard to find providers with tailored specializations who work with students, but it’s impossible to track which providers are available, affordable, and accepting new clients.  Working with an off-campus provider can also create extra barriers for students, as many may be covered by their parent’s insurance, uninsured, unable to access transportation, or uncomfortable going to a new office, preventing them from scheduling an intake. 

When referring students to other providers, you want to ensure that students are getting the mental health support they need – and are connecting with quality, experienced mental health professionals, neither of which you can guarantee when you send students off campus.

Hiring Temporary or Seasonal Support Can Backfire

The rise in service utilization follows a predictable pattern, with many counseling centers seeing highest utilization rates at the start of the academic year and during the finals period. As a result, many campus counseling centers and higher ed leaders turn to temporary or seasonal mental health professionals knowing demand will eventually drop.

Hiring part-time providers can be helpful, and is often an affordable solution for counseling centers, but it can also burden existing staff in an already trying time, as these new providers require onboarding support and training on campus-specific protocols and procedures, which can prove disadvantageous when that provider fails to meet expectations or ends the relationship unexpectedly. 

If you’re considering hiring part-time workers, make sure you build in enough screenings and training, to ensure that these mental health professionals are well versed in your students’ mental health, and are qualified in the same standards you set for your staff. 

Telehealth Offers an Effective, Sustainable Solution

Telehealth can be a beneficial option for counseling centers, so long as you’re working with the right provider for your campus. College students like telehealth services and they have proven just as effective as in-person care. With telehealth, students get access to more providers, expanding and diversifying the pool and the option of attending sessions from the comfort of their home.

Kelly Carleton, VP of Program Success at Mantra Health, notes that many college students also appreciate the added layer of privacy and comfort offered by working with an external telehealth provider. “It helps that Mantra Health is somewhat separated from the counseling center. Students may feel like we offer a level of privacy that they're looking for, especially when they don't really want to go into the counseling center to seek care.”

With telehealth services, colleges and universities can expand their therapy options, but also add on psychiatric care, crisis services, peer-to-peer support, and wellness content. Once you establish a partnership with Mantra Health, you get access to our platform, which allows for in-platform messaging, on-demand reporting, and access to patient progression. We also make it easy to adjust sessions and availability during high-stress times to account for rising demand. 

Expand Hours and Accessibility, Connecting More Students to Quality Care

To prevent mental health crises during stressful times, college counseling centers need to be able to adjust their headcount quickly and scale their services to reach more students across all sides of the campus. 

When colleges and universities partner with Mantra Health, they are immediately connected with a highly collaborative team of experts – clinical leaders, experience providers, partner success managers, and care navigators – who ensure gaps are filled at all times of the year. 

When Hurricane Ian struck Florida in fall 2022, Mantra Health worked overtime to offer our partner St. Petersburg College additional hours of therapy, at no charge, helping to reduce the burdens on on-campus providers – and providing additional support to students who were impacted. 

“We work with partners to figure out what exactly they need at different times of the year. We ask them specific questions: do they anticipate a need for more capacity? How are the people on the ground doing? What's their capacity like? Depending on the answers and need, we may recommend adding on hours and expanding the availability to students,” said Carleton.

Because the typical counseling center is only open 9-5, many students are unable to schedule intakes or appointments at times that work with their schedule. Telehealth can help expand therapy and psychiatry availability, making it possible for vulnerable student populations, including student workers, students who are parents, and student-athletes, to utilize the school-sponsored services. 

About Mantra Health

We believe every student deserves access to quality mental healthcare and we’re committed to working with higher education institutions to meet student-specific needs. Beyond virtual therapy and psychiatry, we also offer colleges and universities the option of adding on 24/7 crisis services, peer-to-peer support, and wellness content. 

We also work directly with on-campus providers and students to maintain a continuation of care during the holiday break, keeping the student with their existing provider or connecting them to recommended providers in their area if their provider isn’t available or isn’t licensed in that state.

In need of additional mental health support? Mantra Health can work with you to expand your offerings during this high-stress time – and prevent you from scrambling in the future. Email us at to get started today!