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UVA Counselors Use Phone Screenings to Accommodate Patients - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

UVA Counselors Use Phone Screenings to Accommodate Patients

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The University of Virginia has 21,000 students and there are only 12 full-time therapists at the school's counseling center.

 But thanks to a triage system no student is left behind. The telephone brief screening system is helping place all students where they need to be, whether that is with one of the school psychologists or a therapist elsewhere.

Before the UVA counseling center used telephone brief screenings, appointments were booked on a first come, first serve basis.

"Depending on how busy we were it might be a week, maybe as long as 10 days before they would get in," said Dr. Belinda Overstreet, a psychologist at UVA's counseling center.

Another of the center's psychologists, Dr. Russ Federman, says the system was flawed because some students needed help before others. That's where the phone screening process comes into play.

"The telephone screening or brief screening process is a way of engaging students in 15 to 20 phone conversations and really having some very direct questions for them that quickly get at their level of functional difficulties," Federman said.

The clinical assessment helps therapists decide if the student needs to be seen immediately, within a day or so, or later.

The counseling center assists students for eight to 10 visits, but the issue is longstanding, the student is sent to a therapist outside of UVA from the start.

Overstreet says it can be a burden on students to start therapy at one center and then have to start over at another.

"If we can, during the phone screening that lasts 15 to 20 minutes, come to an understanding that this is something long term and that we think it would make more sense for them to see someone in the community then they're only telling that long story once," she said.

Federman says during the 2011-2012 school year, UVA's counseling center saw 9.2 percent of the student body. He says the phone briefing is especially important at UVA because it's seeing a larger number of students compared to other universities of the same size.

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