24/7 Remote Clinical Support: A Benefit for Both Students and Counselors

24/7 Remote Clinical Support: A Benefit for Both Students and Counselors

Kaitlin Gallo, Ph.D.
Chief Clinical Officer, CCH

Emotional distress occurs for virtually all college students at one time or another. It might be a result of a bad grade on an exam, feeling sad and lonely on a weekend night, having trouble sleeping, or financial stressors. It could also be caused by something more acute, such as a traumatic event, a depressive episode, or suicidal thoughts. Both for the everyday stressors and the more serious, the availability of a remote network of clinicians at any time of day, night, or year can help both students and counseling center clinicians.  A well-publicized remote 24/7 support line lets students know that there is always someone to listen to their problems big and small, and allows counseling center clinicians the crucial time to rest and recharge without having to be on call during their off hours.

A remote clinician network is available to students regardless of their location—whether they’re on campus, off-campus for the weekend or a school break, or even abroad. It sends the message to students that they are always supported. When a student decides to make a call for support and a licensed clinician answers right away with the student’s school’s specific emergency protocols in hand, the clinician can immediately assess whether the student’s situation is an emergency that warrants immediate attention. If it is an emergency, those specific emergency protocols will be activated, and the student can get help in the moment, whether that’s a wellness check, transfer to a hospital, or another safety measure. Otherwise, the clinician will talk to the student to determine what’s needed—both in the moment, and as potential follow-up steps. In many cases, all a student needs is a clinically trained professional who will listen and provide in-the-moment support and guidance, leaving the student to hang up the phone feeling more ready to handle the situation. In many cases, though, students can benefit from some follow-up steps, in which case the clinician on the phone can help the student initiate therapy, or refer to online support or care coordination services. 

Remote 24/7 clinical support also helps counseling center clinicians, who are reporting higher levels of burnout as the pandemic has increased their workload and stress on the job and off. When counseling center staff must then be the first layer of on-call support for all after-hours clinical matters, in addition to the clinical sessions they have all day long, their ability to fully rest and recharge suffers. Even on the nights when they do not receive a call, they must still remain on alert in case they do. A 24/7 support line can give counseling center clinicians a much needed and deserved break, while hopefully making it more likely that they will feel able and willing to continue in their important roles. 

At some colleges and universities, after-hours calls are routed to the campus police. While this option does relieve the counseling center clinicians of being the first line of defense on the mental health front, it likely dissuades students from calling for support in all but the most dire emergencies. Even in emergencies, students may decide not to call for after-hours support because they do not want a police officer coming to their dorm rooms, or they worry about what might transpire in an interaction with the police. Police can play an important role in responding to mental health emergencies, but they should not be the default. Students should know that they have someone to call confidentially for matters big and small, and that immediate next steps will be tailored to their needs.

It’s important that students know where to turn anytime they need emotional or mental health support, no matter when it is or where they may be. Remote 24/7 clinical support available helps not only college students but the counselors who are working hard to support them. Contact info@christiecampus.com if you’d like to learn more about how 24/7 phone support can be part of a mental health program to help both your students and counseling center clinicians.

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