With the prolonged COVID-19 outbreak, many students suffer from depression, anxiety, and irritation, referred to as the “corona blues.” Consequently, there has been a surge in counseling requests at the Ewha Student Counseling Center (ESCC), which had originally planned for a tight schedule of consultations.
Oh Hye-young, manager of ESCC, shared her thoughts regarding the changes the center faced due to the COVID-19 crisis. She said that there had been approximately 5,500 consultations in the spring semester. Oh noted that this shows how many students are still seeking for counselors despite not coming to school.
Following the restriction guidelines mandated by the school, all personal consultations and programs in ESCC had to be conducted online. Oh stated that there were definite pros and cons following the transformation.
Oh elaborated that developing a rapport with the counselee is vital in counseling. She regretted that as developing close relationships with students is the most difficult task faced by ESCC.
“Nonverbal cues such as eye contact, tone, and sitting posture are what form a rapport. However, it is impossible to do so when counseling by phone. Even though eye contact through a camera lens is possible via video consultations, it is useless depending on the camera angle,” Oh said.
Conversely, Oh mentioned that despite the lack of attachment between the counselor and the counselee, the current situation might be a suitable chance to provide counseling for students who reside abroad or in remote areas. Since all consultations were originally conducted in person, students who could not be on campus at the appointed time had to cancel their meetings. Oh pointed out that the current situation has actually improved access to counseling for students.
In the past, ESCC designed various programs for students by inviting expert instructors in diverse fields. However, the center had to cancel most of these plans with short notice or conduct them online. Oh said that members of the center strongly felt a need to create programs that students could do on their own at home.
“That’s when we started creating audio clips for mental stability and psychotherapy,” Oh said. “The depth of the system might be a bit shallow, since the students are working on a therapy on their own without an instructor, but we believe they will feel much more comfortable.”
ESCC has newly opened a channel called ‘e-Class’ on CyberCampus. The center could not afford to create online content because of the tight schedules of consultations and programs. Members of ESCC commented that although the COVID-19 outbreak has caused numerous hardships, they have been fortunate enough to attempt new projects.
Even though the pandemic caught ESCC off guard and there was little preparation in the spring semester, the video counseling system was fully equipped by the outset of the fall semester thanks to budget support provided by the school. With this system established, Oh anticipates carrying out both online and inperson programs in the aftermath of COVID-19.
“Usually, we only did verbal counseling, but I think using the data posted on e-Class helps speed up the progress of the counseling. Previously, the result of the counseling had an influence on the counselee alone. However, the data is accumulated online and enables those who have similar concerns to overcome their situation without even visiting the center,” Oh said.
“Encouragement is a key word in a time like this,” Oh concluded. “No matter how bad our situation is, people all over the world are going through it together. Rather than denying the state you are in, it is best to accept it and provide yourself a small but certain amount of happiness.”