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Topic: Access to Mental Health Counseling in College

Question: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the use of university student counseling centers? Have the prominent issues that students bring into counseling changed since the pandemic started?

Marlys K. Borkhuis, M.S., LPC
Counseling Center
North Dakota State University

Expert's Response

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a decrease in the number of students seeking services. This was likely because students returned home to live with their families and may have received the support they needed through family, friends, and community providers. However, more recently, telehealth has increased access to student counseling services. The students that I have been seeing over video for counseling are now missing fewer sessions - I’ve had sessions for students in their cars, study rooms, or wherever they are able to find some privacy.

In terms of the issues that students are experiencing – not much has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When people think about college counseling, they think of students coming in with academic concerns. However, the number on e thing that counselors see is anxiety, followed by depression and relationship issues. All of these issues are still prominent during the pandemic – the difference is the options that are readily available for coping. Spending time with peers and doing things that are enjoyable are vital for the mental health of college students, so it is important for students to find ways to engage with others while being able to follow precautions and remain safe.

Tips for coping with mental health as a college student:

  • Get creative. Find ways to interact with others while maintaining social distance. For example, meet with a small group of friends outside when possible, or have a videoconference game night.
  • Pick up a new hobby. Take advantage of your increased “free time” by doing something that you didn’t have time to do before the pandemic. For example, learn to play the guitar by watching YouTube videos.


  • Look online or call your student health center to ask about the options your university offers for mental health counseling.
  • Visit – a peer-led website for college students addressing mental health topics.