Director Michael McClendon discusses plans for the future of TU’s counseling.
For many students on campus Dr. Michael McClendon is a well-known and trusted confidant. For many more an introduction is necessary.
Recently promoted to director of counseling following the retirement of TU’s long-time director Dr. Tom Brian, McClendon has a long list of new responsibilities and a longer list of plans for the future.
“My charge is management and operations of the counseling center,” McClendon said. “It’s my responsibility from a fiscal perspective, a clinical perspective and also scope and direction for the future.”
The majority of McClendon’s professional counseling experience has been in the university context.
“One of the things that a counseling center at a university always has to deal with is demand,” McClendon continued. “The trend has always been at least an expected five-percent bump on demand from the previous year.”
“The demand for counseling continues to rise as the stigma around mental health continues to decrease,” he said.
At three full-time staff, the staff-to-student ratio is approximately one to every 1,150 students. “That’s a high ratio, especially given how much students rely on us,” McClendon said.
“One of the things we want to do is manage the flow of students into and out of the counseling center,” he continued.
Research show that when people make use of therapy, they are more likely to progress in treatment when they have a financial stake in their progress.
“When it’s just an open-ended resource, there’s not much value placed on that,” McClendon said.
McClendon plans to shift the structure of how services are offered. Instead of unlimited sessions at no cost, students will have 10 free sessions each academic year, and subsequent sessions will cost $10 each. The $10 fee is at the discretion of the clinician in case of severe circumstances.
“We’re not trying to make money here, we’re not going to make money. It’s meant to be a prod,” McClendon said.
“We’re using a mix of individual therapy, group therapy sessions and we’re collaborating with other departments on campus to provide skills-based workshops and address resiliency issues and distress tolerance stuff to help all students, not just students seeking out therapy,” McClendon continued.
McClendon said hopefully the diversity of resources will clear up the pipeline so clinicians can spend their time on clients with the most need and minimize the waitlist.
One new resource is a free mental toughness workshop called SHAPE, which will be available to anyone who needs it every Monday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. The workshop will teach helpful skills for handling stress.
McClendon bragged on the accomplishments of his predecessor, who led the department for 29-and-a-half years.
“When I started here in 2011, I was really shocked by how well referred we were from other departments,” McClendon said. “It’s unusual for me to go to any department and talk to professors and they not know Tom and the counseling center.”
McClendon said that this was not the case at other places he had worked.
“It’s to Tom’s credit. He did a wonderful job making this an office, a department and a resource that faculty, staff and students all considered safe, familiar, comfortable to approach and useful place,” McClendon said.
McClendon’s professional history makes him an ideal candidate to follow in Brian’s footsteps.
McClendon’s path to psychology began as a sophomore.
“I was fascinated with the concept that you could understand and potentially predict human behavior,” McClendon said.
“I wasn’t going to pursue graduate school because I didn’t think I could cut it,” McClendon said. “I didn’t have the self confidence to think that I could do graduate school.”
It took a friend encouraging him to visit the University of Tulsa for him to apply to the masters program and eventually work his way up to the doctorate.
McClendon said he loves working at college campuses because it coincides with a time in people’s lives when they are most introspective.
“You can’t help but sit in a class and apply that knowledge to what you see around you,” McClendon said. “It fosters this kind of introspection about ourselves and our place in the world, which is the perfect time to make changes.
“It sounds cliche, but there are people here at TU and people all across the world going to universities that really are going to change things. They really can be change agents. I want them to be the most well-adjusted change agents they can be,” McClendon said.
McClendon will still see patients out of necessity. TU has funding for three full-time counseling positions, but currently there are only two counselors, McClendon and Dr. Krupa Hegde, who joined the staff January 5.
The hiring process is ongoing for the third staff member, and the counseling center has been approved to hire a full-time intern in the fall.
Including the counseling practicum graduate students who will work in the department next year, employees may be spilling out the Alexander Health Center.
“Given where the university is and the spectrum of growth and hardships with the fiscal stuff that has happened over the last couple of years … there’s not any current plans for new buildings or moving,” McClendon said. As space gets cramped, McClendon will give up his office while he is in meetings with the university so that the graduate students in practicum can meet with students.
Counseling services must make the most out of office space as the number of students needing counseling services continues to grow. In the fall 2017 semester, two staff members met with roughly 400 to 500 clients.
“Usually in an academic year, we see roughly 800 students,” McClendon said. “But that doesn’t actually capture the demand.”
Last semester, there were 25 to 30 students stuck on a waiting list, McClendon said.
“We will probably never meet fully the demand that we have from students, but we want to do better than what we have done,” McClendon said.
Dr. McClendon is the Director of Counseling & Psychological Services at TU. For more information on Service Center hours, please see the information below.
Crisis/Emergency Situation Recommended Procedures
TU Counseling & Psychological Services Center
If a student is in crisis (i.e., at risk of harming self or other, in need of immediate psychological
attention), they are welcome to call TU Counseling & Psychological Services at 918-631-2200
or walk in to Alexander Health Center anytime Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. They can request a counseling appointment utilizing the words
“crisis” or “urgent” to meet with a counselor as soon as that can be arranged.
After hours, in the event of this type of situation, we recommend calling Campus Security at
918-631-5555. They have additional resources available, including an after-hours contact phone
number for TU CPSC personnel. Additional resources include:
COPES, a Tulsa psychological crisis management facility/team
FCS Crisis Care Center, a Tulsa crisis management facility
Laureate Psychiatric Hospital
Parkside Psychiatric Hospital