Lafene, Counseling Services merge for more efficient mental health care

Kodee Walls, assistant director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said the combination of Lafene and Counseling Services has made mental health services more accessible to students. (Archive photo by Hannah Greer | Collegian Media Group)

The Lafene Health Center now provides students with mental health treatment after joining services with Counseling Services. Kodee Walls, assistant director for Counseling and Psychological Services, said merging the two centers makes the treatment process more efficient.

Walls said the merge happened in Spring 2021 after Jim Parker, director of Lafene Health Center, became the director of Counseling Services in Summer 2020. She said physical health and mental health are linked.

“You cannot treat mental or physical health without creating space and resources for the other,” Walls said. “Now that we are a combined unit, there is more interconnectedness between mental health professionals and physical health providers. We can make referrals without having to complete a release information form. We now can just call on the phone.”

Students had the opportunity to receive both services. However, the combination of the two units makes the process smoother, Walls said, partially because of the creation of new consent forms after the merge.

The new consent forms are student agreements allowing mental health professionals and physical health providers to talk about their health and share ideas.

“This creates a lot more cross-talk and support,” Walls said. “We can discuss whether something is anxiety or a heart issue, and then we can rule out one or the other.”

Another benefit of the merge is the new drop-in consults, Walls said.

“The model itself comes from the concept that it is more important to help someone as close to the time they want help,” Walls said. “If a person has to call to make an appointment and cannot talk to someone right away, it creates a distance that can increase the problem.”

The waitlist was a serious issue for students in the past, Walls said. After combining Lafene and Counseling Services, they restructured the way evaluations are run.

“CAPS has had a really poor reputation of accessibility to campus, so one of the big priorities we have is resolving the issue of the waitlist,” Walls said.The new model was born from that idea because no one hated the waitlist more than the clinicians.”

Walls said students now have access to eight free thirty-minute sessions per semester. These are drop-in sessions with no appointment needed. After talking to a student, the clinician recommends how to continue receiving care.

According to the CAPS webpage, the center offers workshops, group therapy, couple’s therapy and short-term, goal-oriented individual therapy to eligible Kansas State students.

“Since the merge, the consults are new; we had the group therapy and the workshops before, but now they are so much better,” Walls said. “Before, it was one workshop for three weeks, and only about two people would show up, and now we already have twenty people in round two of the anxiety workshop.”

Walls said students are starting to benefit from the new form of consults and workshops since she has seen an increased number of students taking advantage of the consults.

“We have helped around four hundred clients in the last four weeks, which is a hundred more than last year at this time,” Walls said.

Walls said she wants students to know that workshops are a great resource.

“Honestly, sometimes individual therapy is not what is best for people. Part of that can be because it is developmentally normal things they are going through,” Walls said. “For example, many people are anxious because of coming back to in-person, sometimes what we need is to normalize that and develop coping skills.”

According to the website, CAPS offers workshops that teach skills related to stress management, getting better at relationships, managing difficult thoughts and emotions, mindfulness and more.

Dr. Marcos Mendez, a psychotherapist at Lafene, is the leader of the Bridge Workshop. Mendez said his workshop focuses on relationships overall and that workshops are not therapy but more of a class.

“It is three sessions,” Mendez said. “First we talk about what makes a relationship healthy, then we talk about communication skills at the second session and last we talk about things that may go wrong in a relationship and how to navigate those.”

Mendez said workshops are beneficial because he can serve more students in less time.

“In three hours in three weeks, I helped ten students,” Mendez said. “If I would have had to do that individually, it would have taken me thirty hours to help them.”

Walls and Mendez both said coping skills are helpful for students, and workshops can help teach those skills.

“I think these are helpful because they provide students with coping skills, and that is something students are coming in for, to learn coping skills,” Mendez said. “Students want to know how to manage and push through their problems.”

Workshop sign-ups are available on the K-State Lafene portal, under the “Workshops” tab. The schedule is also on the CAPS website.