Over the past decade, University and College counseling
centers began taking significant steps toward using the internet as a means of
providing services to students. These
efforts to use the internet have largely been insular, however, with each
counseling center creating internet-based resources in isolation from the
efforts of colleagues at other centers.
This isolation of different efforts has been unfortunate, not to mention
ironic, given the fact that the internet was originally created to permit the
sharing of information across geographical distances, and that the internet’s
ability to allow such sharing remains its defining feature. The internet provides us with an incredible
technology that counseling centers have just begun to tap.
In this document, I will describe the development of several
internet resources designed for counseling center professionals and for university
and college students that have capitalized on the interconnectivity of the
The use of computer technology was not a new idea for
university and college counseling centers.
In the early 1980’s
In the late 1980’s the Counseling Center at Eastern Michigan
University went on-line with a
computerized conference system, with discussions for students led by a
staff member of the Counseling Center.
In the early 1990’s
*Selections ending with a “/” indicate that there were submenus below that selection.
Response to this gopher site was dramatic. Within one year usage leapt from 20 hits/month to over 300. (As of this writing, the current web version
of this site receives over 2000 hits/month).
It became clear quite early that such a resource as our
gopher site also could be invaluable to others beyond UB. Indeed, even from the first months our gopher
site was being accessed from users all over the world. The idea of a decentralized internet site
emerged, a resource that could minimize the tendency of counseling center
professionals to recreate the wheel. The
question that arose was “What if we could create an internet site that was
built on the best of what counseling centers around the country had to offer –
a single site that consisted of links to resources located at many and
Beginning in 1994 I began regularly searching the internet
for home pages and gopher sites created by university and college counseling
centers. Rather quickly this developed
into the creation of an on-line directory of these sites. As stated in the introductory text of the
original Directory, “the sharing of resources such as those listed in this
document can be invaluable – we can combine our efforts to provide much more
effective services to students (and others) than if we each work
separately. We can examine what our
colleagues are doing elsewhere and learn from them. The resources we make available locally will
be all the more effective if we stay aware of what our colleagues are doing
nationally.” Originally consisting of
only a handful of counseling center sites, this directory now contains over 250
sites and continues to grow weekly. In
1996 the database of sites in the Directory was growing so large so quickly
that the Directory was entirely redesigned to allow easy submission of new
sites and the searching and customized reporting of the existing sites. See
http://ccvillage.buffalo.edu/centers.html to access the current Directory.
In 1994 I also began contemplating the idea of creating a list of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) based on the discussions that were occurring on the AUCCCD (Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors) listserv. I also proposed via several professional counseling center listservs creating a catalog of on-line resources created by counseling centers:
The enormity of such projects slowed things down for some
time and so the viability of an AUCCCD FAQ list or a general counseling center
resource list faded. In 1996-97,
however, the idea of an even larger project emerged. Bob Hsiung, M.D., of the
What this illustrated to me at that point was how ripe the
time was for using the internet for professional purposes. Counseling center professionals were beginning
to recognize just how powerful the inter in internet
The time seemed right to return to my original idea of a large-scale resource for counseling center professionals, but perhaps on even a larger scale than originally contemplated – some sort of “meta web-site.” The Counseling Center Directory was a large-scale project but was only a listing of counseling center web addresses with brief descriptions and of limited scope. The Virtual Pamphlet Collection was also large-scale, but focused on only one thing: virtual pamphlets and brochures. The internet could provide much more in the way of collaboration and resource sharing for professionals.
The day to day demands of my work could have delayed the
further development of a meta web-site forever, but in
1996 Wendy Settle of Notre Dame’s
The phrase “meta web-site” was pretty ugly and cumbersome,
and so I played around with different names.
I finally settled on the “
|I’d like to share with you the
Counseling Center <Village>. This project is not, however, about a
physical thing — it is, rather, a concept. And it is a work very
much in progress. The purpose of <the Counseling Center Village> is
to capitalize on the inherent nature of the internet:
interconnection. To ignore this nature we risk duplicating efforts,
recreating the wheel... we miss the point of the internet:
collaboration, sharing, and building on each others’ strengths.
Counseling Center <Village>, then, is about the concept of
interconnection across geographical distances… Wendy Settle of the
University of Notre Dame and I have been working on setting up a
Counseling Center Village Page—something that will bring together in
one web page all of these different resources and will include
materials from counseling centers all over such as:
The mission of the
2. The Virtual Pamphlet Collection
3. Help.Your.Self: Award-winning psychoeducational self help web pages designed for college students.
4. Technical Assistance: Assistance on creating or improving a counseling center's web page.
5. Practice Resources: Clinical, assessment, and other practice-related resources.
6. Workshop Central: Psychoeducational workshop outlines, manuals, handouts, and other materials.
7. At The Office: Sample forms and other paperwork, policies and procedures, AUCCCD Document Bank, assessment instruments, and more.
8. Research Network: A place to exchange ideas, meet and collaborate on counseling center research.
9. Staff Development: Professional organizations, staff development program materials, presenters for various topics, job listings, licensure resources, and counseling listservs.
10. Pre-doctoral Training: Pre-doctoral internships, practica, material for seminar presentations, on-line readings, and more.
You can follow this link to view an archived version of the Village website, circa 1998.
The first task was to identify coordinators for each section of the Village. I was already responsible for the Counseling Center Directory and Bob Hsiung was responsible for the Virtual Pamphlet Collection. Wendy Settle had created the Help.Your.Self web site specifically for the Village. But that left seven other sections. A call was put out through ACPA and via email and mailings. The Village became a project sponsored by Commission VII of ACPA, bringing it a much higher profile than previously possible. Over the next few months colleagues from around the country volunteered and the Counseling Center Village Board was created. Make no mistake, these people have been the heart of the Village web project. Whatever structure I provided, these individuals are responsible for the Village being what it is.
Jeff Brooks-Harris, email@example.com, Univ. of
firstname.lastname@example.org, Univ. of
email@example.com, SUNY Buffalo. Coordinator: The
§ Larry Long, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tarleton State Univ. Coordinator: At the Office
§ Wendy Settle, email@example.com, Univ. of Notre Dame. Coordinator: Help.Your.Self
It has been extraordinarily rewarding for me to be a part of
this project, and to work with the extremely talented colleagues from around
the country who have contributed their time to this project. I can’t imagine a more rewarding professional
activity than the collaboration that has been generated by this project. I look forward to the future developments
that we will see in internet technology, and the applications of that
technology to the work we do in university and college counseling centers.
Interactive and real-time on-line services will undoubtedly be the next hot topic for counseling centers. On-line support groups, bulletin boards, or the more controversial topic, on-line counseling itself, will all need to be addressed by counseling center professionals. It is my belief that the internet will continue to provide useful and meaningful adjuncts and alternative to the more traditional services provided by university and college counseling centers. This is an area that is growing very quickly in general, and it is important that we have some hand in its development for counseling centers (or we run the risk of it developing without us). Important groundwork needs to be done (e.g., issues such as needs assessments, confidentiality, accountability, liability, and effectiveness to name a few). But I do believe there can be a place for on-line services in the work counseling center professionals do, and that exciting new opportunities for service provision will continue to open up with these on-line technologies.
Gilles-Thomas, D. L. (1997, March). Innovations in college counseling
centers: The Counseling Center Web.
Hsiung, R. C. (1997). The Student Counseling Virtual Pamphlet Collection: An innovative resource, Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 29 (2), 154-157.