It is unfortunate that not only have things become so bad at McGill, but they are on the road to becoming much worse. Basically, McGill has just about eliminated actual treatment services, especially expert psychotherapy services. The Daily editorial is absolutely right in expressing that McGill is focusing only on waiting times, while making access to good service nearly impossible to access. A colleague and former Mental Health employee has recently told me that McGill Mental Health psychiatrists have urged her to write a letter of protest as they are dismayed by recent changes, but are too frightened to act themselves. Many of the top McGill psychotherapists have already left or are planning to leave McGill. Psychiatrists will soon follow. In just a few years, the office of the Deputy Provost of Student Life and Learning has destroyed mental health services, and it’s going to get much worse. If psychotherapy is not actively supported, then it will disappear. There are McGill academic staff who have questioned why McGill Counselling is hiring staff with little or no psychotherapy experience, while discouraging experienced psychotherapists from practicing their craft.
The Office of the Deputy Provost has made a mockery of McGill’s mission statement. McGill claims dedication to the advancement of learning and in providing service to society. In academia, in order to promote excellence, one turns to experts in a field who have a deep and informed understanding of research, and in medical fields, of clinical experience as well. The models that have been forced onto the McGill services were done without no consultation with any of the experienced clinical staff within McGill and with no attempt to consult any true expert in student mental health, apart from inviting one individual who has been trying to sell his untested model. To abandon academic and clinical knowledge to serve one’s own political ends is a slap in the face to the whole McGill community. In addition, the Office of the Deputy Provost has created an atmosphere of intimidation, with staff being directly informed that any protest will not be tolerated. How is this possibly in the interest in the advancement of learning and excellence?
The tried and true best treatment for students with emotional problems is expert psychotherapy, and not dumbed down research models or superficial interventions. Providing expert psychotherapy requires strong leadership, ongoing teaching and a positive atmosphere. None of this is now present at McGill.
Dr. Norman Hoffman
Former Director, McGill Mental Health Services (1992-2007)