Search to find counselors is ongoing

Alyssa Coleman, News Editor

Pitt-Johnstown’s Health and Counseling office could be receiving more help soon, as administrators seek to add more counselors to the staff.

At a Dec. 18 town hall meeting, Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar said the Health and Counseling office needs more staff, and there are plans to add more professionals by the next academic year.

According to Health and Counseling Executive Director Shelley Peruso, there are just two full-time counselors at Pitt-Johnstown: herself and Jessi Quigley.

“Presently, we are understaffed,” Peruso said.  “But the search has begun for two more full-time counselors, so there will be four of us looking after students.”

According to Peruso, she and Quigley each see about 30 students every week, while counselors on average see about 25 a week, she said.

“Thirty students a week is just scheduled appointments,” Peruso said.  “That does not include walk-ins.”

Peruso said the main reason students seek counseling is anxiety, followed closely by depression.

She also said once there are more counselors on staff, she would like to have group therapy sessions in addition to individual counseling.

Peruso said there have been several failed attempts at finding qualified counselors in the past, and that salary issues were the main reasons why administrators were having trouble finding counselors.

“We’ve worked through those salary issues,” Peruso said.  “We are now offering a salary that is competitive with the local market.”

According to Student Affairs Vice President Chris Stumpf, Pitt-Johnstown administrators decided it was time to add more counselors to the staff.

“Based upon the need of the student body, (administrators have) made the decision to hire additional counselors,” Stumpf said.  “The position just opened up, and at a certain time, we will begin reviewing applicants.”

Peruso said that chosen applicants will be contacted for an initial telephone interview. 

After that, certain applicants will be asked to visit campus and meet with her and others within Student Affairs for on-campus interviews.

She said she would also like to have two or three students sit in on the interviews to get their opinions of counselor applicants.

“I need to have confidence that the people in the position know the job and know it well,” Peruso said.  “They need to be able to handle crisis situations in addition to individual counseling.”

Some qualifications the counseling positions require are a master’s level education or the individual must be a licensed counselor, a minimum one year of experience and preferred experience with college or adult individuals.

Peruso said that more attention can be drawn to mental-health awareness.

“There is a national trend where we notice more college students are going to counseling,” Peruso said.  “It’s not just here at (Pitt-Johnstown).”

Beginning Jan. 22, psychology instructor Emily Kist is to be added to the staff as a temporary counselor until two full-time counselors can be added.