Innovation and Behavior Change in College Counseling

Innovation and Behavior Change in College Counseling

I had the privilege of attending a keynote address by Dr. Brené Brown at the AUCCCD conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. While many people are familiar with Dr. Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame, her newest book is focused on leadership and the traits that define truly transformative leaders. One of the points that she made which resonated most with me was around the fact that perfectionism is the enemy of innovation. She described how if we aren’t willing to fail, we won’t try anything new.

In our work of trying to deploy digital mental health tools to higher education and university partnerships, we sometimes encounter resistance. Change is hard. We all have standard ways of doing things, ways that we were trained in, and that we’re used to using. These things feel familiar and comfortable, and we feel like if something goes wrong, we can point to the fact that we were just following standard procedure. But what about when it becomes evident that our old ways aren’t working any more? When we are missing large segments of the population? We need to innovate. Continuing to do what you’ve always done will continue to get you the same results.

College Counseling

Introducing new processes to a system that copes with risk and is strapped for resources is particularly difficult. With respect to cost, it’s worth considering the costs of mitigating problems which may arise from failing to reach individuals who need help rather than just weighing the costs of implementing a new solution. In the realm of higher education, these costs include more subtle problems such as students whose academic performance suffers and/or drop out of school, not just those who suffer mental health crises. Given that improved mental health is not just a counseling center issue, individuals seeking to fund innovative programs can also look towards student affairs, residential life, and academic services departments for additional support. Mental health is not just the purview of the counseling center, but needs to be a campus-wide priority.

Some individuals considering implementing digital mental health solutions for higher education question how they will know if the program is a success. This could be defined by the number of students who use the program, their measured satisfaction, or any change in counseling center efficiency. It’s important to keep in mind that marketing and roll-out of any new product or partnership needs to be thorough. Schools cannot just purchase a platform or tool and expect it to be immediately utilized. Students and the community as a whole needs to be made aware, again, and again, that their mental health matters and that their school has taken a step towards making tools available to them. This investment in the process is critical for the  success of the partnership.

“There’s only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” — Aristotle