The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) television studios, UDCtv, provides the Washington, DC area with programming geared to foster health, political and environmental awareness.  Dr. Katherine Marshall Woods hosts this UDCtv show entitled “A Healthy Mind” featuring guests from a myriad of professions lending information to promote healthy living and lifestyles.  Entries entitled: “A Healthy Mind” share these interviews.

Drs. Katherine Marshall Woods and Ekwenzi Gray on set of A Healthy Mind

On January 21st, 2020, Dr. Ekwenzi Gray was invited onto the show to discuss the importance, success, and challenges of college counseling; particularly at Howard University in Washington, DC. Dr. Gray is a licensed psychologist who has dedicated over a decade to performing clinical research and counseling a variety of individuals. Dr. Gray has a passion for helping clients struggling with adjustment, career and spiritual concerns, depression, suicide, anxiety, and more. Dr. Gray’s clinical approach focuses on the relationship between a person’s thoughts and feelings, geared to help identify adaptive thought patterns to have a desirable emotional experience. Dr. Gray is currently the Director of Research and Administration at Howard University. He also holds a private practice in Washington, DC, providing counseling services to the community. 

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Dr. Marshall Woods: “Hello, I’m Dr. Katherine Marshall Woods, adjunct professor at the George Washington University, and your host for this edition of A Healthy Mind. The purpose of this video series is to educate and inform the public about mental health, from public policy and environmental factors to the various disorders that affect healthy minds.”

“Attending college, at any age, can be rich in experience, one full of academic pursuits, career aspirations and personal self-discovery. Within these years, challenges with coping with independence, increasing adult demands, academic and financial responsibilities can arise. In a 2015 survey by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors reports found that more than 47 percent of students seeking counseling suffer from anxiety, and 40 percent report suffering from depression.  Self injurious behavior and suicidal ideation are additionally rising experiences for college students according to The Center for Collegiate Mental Health.”

“College counseling centers are the first line of respond to provide support. Within this role clinicians and staff are asked to provide counsel, treatment to students arriving with mental health diagnoses, respond to campus crises, and provide psychoeducational outreach to the college community.”

“Dr. Ekwenzi Gray is a clinical psychologist in the District of Columbia both in private practice, Howard University counseling services and Howard University Hospital. Dr. Gray has a particular passion for helping clients struggling with issues related to depression, anxiety, spiritual concerns, and anger. He also works with people dealing with issues related to relationships, sexual identity, and orientation. Dr. Gray, Welcome to A Healthy Mind!” 

Dr. Gray: “Thank you Dr. Marshall Woods. Good to be here!”

Dr. Marshall Woods: “So you work at Howard University Counseling Center. What has your experience been like there?”

Dr. Gray: “There’s a lot of different ways to describe the experience at the counseling center. I’ve been there for, easily over a decade; and probably the first word that comes to mind is rewarding. The second word that comes to mind is challenging, ok. And, I say that from the perspective that it’s been wonderful to work with the students, you know, from different ethnic and religious and spiritual backgrounds, different ages, presented with a variety of problems. The challenge has been that, in the last few years, there’s been more students coming in than we can fully provide the types of services that we want to for. So, we still provide high-quality services; but, there’s just so much more of a demand that, we feel pressured and we’re trying to meet that by any means necessary. And, you know, as such we need more resources in order to truly keep up with the increase in demand.”

Dr. Marshall Woods: “How has, lets say Howard in particular since that’s where you are employed, how does this university cope with that demand? Do they provide different types of services to meet the demand? Or, do you find that most students are waitlisted to receive services?”

Dr. Gray: “You know, one of the things Howard has tried to do is stay away from a waitlist, but it’s all going to depend on how you look at it. The students may say, ‘no I’m on the waitlist’ but we’re saying ‘no, you’re actually connected with services’. What happens is, you know, when students come in and they register from the moment they register and meet with that intake provider they’re connected to our service. What we then do is, you know, gather information from them try and figure out, you know, is that service provider going to be the best person to meet with them; or do we need to present them with another option either in house or external to the university. And sometimes that has been the bigger challenge, because students come to the university-counseling center because it’s convenient, it’s on campus. But with so many people coming in, and the shift in service provision going from long-term therapy, you know, the stereotypical therapy where people go for months or years on end, now we’ve had to shift to a more short-term model in order to try to capture everybody. That means that as people are finishing their coarse of therapy, sometimes when they’re just starting to get into their issues, we have to connect them to a different service provider. So we’ve had to make referrals outside of the university in some of those cases, and the students aren’t always happy about that because, it’s less convenient; they have to go away from campus, it may mean that there is a cost associated with it.  And the costs for Howard at least, is included in their student affairs fees, but it’s still only so much we can do.”

“So we try to provide them with that option and sometimes they go outside and it’s like a taste of the real world, which is, you don’t get an appointment in a week, it can be a month, it can be two months; so we still try to provide support for them through walk in services, through our crisis line, through you know just being in contact, shorter sessions, however we can until they get connected with another service provider.” 

“And, the other challenge that we have no control over, is the fact that, specifically in the DC/ Metropolitan area, most of the providers are full. So, it becomes this thing of, you want to try and provide the best services, you don’t know how. So, many of our staff members were carrying, active case loads, like people that they met with every week or every other week, probably between 30-40 people; but the may have more that they just had to be in contact with. People that maybe they weren’t in a full crisis so you can meet with them like once a month or just kind of check in with them by phone, but people that were still in need. And that weighed on all of us and continues to weigh on us, because we don’t want to leave anybody hanging out there without a net…” 

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