Cook Counseling Center
Cook by the numbers
4,500 clients seen on average each year during the past three years.
6 counselors embedded in specific colleges, campuses, or areas, including:
- Roanoke campus
- Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
- College of Engineering
- College of Science
- Graduate School
- Department of Athletics
*Additional counselors are slated to be embedded at the Falls Church Campus and in the Pamplin College of Business in August.
“It’s certainly beneficial because I get to know the grad students and the kinds of problems they have, so in a way, I'm kind of a specialist in graduate students,” said Rita Klein, senior staff psychologist at the Graduate Life Center. “And I think it takes away some of the fear that may be associated with going into a counseling center or seeing a mental health professional. It may even take away some of the stigma associated with seeking help because they're seeking it in their own place where they feel comfortable.”
8 campus organizations are served by counselor liaisons who spend two to three hours on location each week, reaching with support targeting:
- APIDA-Asian Pacific Islander Desi American.
- Students with different abilities.
- Students exploring the purpose and meaning of life.
- First-generation students.
- International students.
- Students of color.
- LGBTQ+ students.
- Students who wanted something? without the use of social media.
4 therapy dogs work as a part of the Animal Assisted Therapy Program. The highly trained animals participate in outreach activities, therapy sessions, and generally work to decrease stigma around mental health. They are the most visible members of the Cook Counseling Center staff and play a key role in connecting with students. Moose, a founding member of the AAT program who died in 2020, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in May 2020 and was featured by the CW Network as one of 10 Dogs of the Year 2020.
THE TEAM AT COOK COUNSELING CENTER believes in assessments as tools, especially when it comes to evaluating themselves.
“We’re constantly assessing our services,” said Bethany Rallis, clinical psychologist. “We want to constantly be learning about students’ needs and how they change from year to year. We’re really intentional about how we’re designing our services to meet student needs.”
The center is committed to connecting students to services that enhance mental health, removing barriers that may affect academic performance or influence the overall Virginia Tech experience, and improving learning opportunities for the next generation of mental health professionals. Cook ranked No. 1 for Best Counseling Services in the 2021 edition of the Princeton Review’s Best 386 Colleges.
During the past five years, the center has expanded and reorganized, relying on self-evaluations and student feedback to inform its work. The center’s leaders have added 21 clinicians, including psychologists, counselors, social workers, nurse practitioners, and support staff.
In fall 2020, Cook debuted a flexible, multifaceted approach to meeting student needs. Rather than waiting for a clinician to become available for a traditional patient intake, the Cook Connect Model invites the student to meet with a connection professional to review specific concerns, explore available resources, and tailor an individual action plan.
Rallis, who coordinates the center’s self-assessments, said the new model not only decreased students’ wait time, but also increased student satisfaction. Wait times for first appointments ranged from two to four days in fall 2020, down from 18 days in late October 2019, and 80 percent of students reported improvement with their symptoms resulting from the services recommended.
Cook Connect recommendations for services vary based on individual circumstances, but may include:
- Access to vetted mental health resources.
- Referrals to campus resources outside of Cook.
- Workshops on specific mental health-related topics.
- Animal-assisted programs.
- Support groups.
- Academic support.
- Therapy groups.
- Individual therapy.
- Crisis consultation.
The well-rounded approach is designed to address a variety of needs and aligns with the universitywide mental health campaign, #VTBetterTogether.