The virtual world of counselors

Photo illustration by Randi Love

For those who cannot set the time aside to travel to Pierce, receiving counseling is often not an option. However, a new online service is offering students the ability to speak with counselors from the comfort of their own homes.

Pierce College offers students an online counseling software called Cranium Café that allows them to meet with their counselors virtually.

Students can find the Cranium Café software through the “counseling” tab in the school’s website. They can create a free account with their student ID that allows them to start making FaceTime-like virtual appointments.

Although this is a free online tool for Pierce, some students aren’t aware that they have this option, and few counselors have started using it.

General counselor Lily Duong received training for the software and said it wasn’t complicated. Although she still prefers that students meet with her face to face to create a comprehensive education plan, she uses Cranium Café to counsel students who cannot physically attend school.

However, there are some disadvantages to using Cranium Café. More than one appointment is necessary to complete everything students need, and completing paperwork can be complicated online.

“The face-to-face online is great. But as a long-term, sometimes there’s certain things that I haven’t been able to do online, like transcript evaluations,” Duong said.

International students’ counselor Abby Watson uses Cranium Café to communicate with international students who are enrolled at Pierce, but haven’t yet arrived in the country. Watson said the Wi-Fi signal is an issue when she connects with students, but overall, the program is beneficial.

“There’s a lot of things that you can do with it. You can share forms with the students and fill it out. It’s pretty great,” Watson said.

Before Cranium Café, international students couldn’t meet with a counselor until they arrived to the United States, and by that time, most students were already enrolled in classes. Watson is now able to help international students complete the application process and an educational plan so that they have the same class opportunities as national students.

Communication Disorders major Ary’l Burgoyne hadn’t heard of the Cranium Café, but said that she remembers that there were other colleges offering similar programs when she was applying during high school. She said online counseling is convenient for busy students.

“Sometimes students don’t have the time for in-person counseling, especially when they have to deal with walk-ins and other people with appointments,” Burgoyne said. “Having a software like this, where it’s online, is more accessible. But it’s just a matter of if the counselors have the time to give these online students proper advice like the in-person students have been getting.”

Although in-person counseling is encouraged, Duong said she’d like students to take advantage of the software because it’s free.

“Honestly, I’d like to see more people know about Cranium and counselors start doing it,” Duong said.