The Student Counseling Center at SRU has implemented some changes this semester to their service options in order to promote mental health and self-love on and off campus.
Dr. Melissa Nard, associate professor and licensed psychologist said that the counseling center focuses on serving students by providing counseling for developmental, social adjustment, academic preparedness and psychological concerns.
“Individuals, couples, and group counseling are available through the counseling center, although majority of the sessions are individual,” Nard said.
She said that the counseling center also provides emergency and crisis intervention services, along with wellness programming in the form of psychoeducational outreach to the university.
Nard did not have any data on exactly how many students take advantage of the counseling center, but said that the new session limit is helping to encourage students to utilize services.
“We are very fortunate that President Behre supports the mental health of the students to such a degree that he was strongly in favor of removing session limits,” Nard said.
Nard said that limiting sessions was not a decision that the counselors agreed with in the past and it was a decision that they challenged as an organization.
“I believe that an artificial session limit can be a barrier to students seeking treatment,” Nard said. “While we have to remain mindful of our limits in terms of providing ongoing care over semester breaks, I think students appreciate knowing that they don’t have to ‘stretch out’ sessions.”
Nard said that counseling in nature is typically short-term, but that they have to be open to the possibility that some students need long-term counseling to build up therapeutic relationships so that their ultimate goals can be accomplished. She said that with SRU being in a rural area, it is often difficult for students to seek help through off-campus treatment because of obstacles like transportation and copays.
Nard said SRU also offers a program for when the counseling center is not opened called TAO, short for “Therapy Assisted Online.” This national program has been used at Slippery Rock since the spring of 2016. With this program, students are able to have access to a therapy hotline online. Although Nard has recommended this service before, she personally feels that students who are in crisis should seek care in-person through the student counseling center, the student health center and the university police.
Nard emphasized that taking care of mental health is an essential need in a university setting.
“I often ask students what they do for self-care and many times they don’t have an answer,” she said. “We are getting better at it, but I think as a society we haven’t done a good job of recognizing how mental health impacts all areas of our lives. This includes areas like academic functioning, interpersonal relationships, our ability to think about and plan for the future and how we fundamentally value ourselves.”
Nard said that there is not just one basic answer when it comes to how students can relax and promote self-love. She said, however, that disconnecting from social media is important.
“We have become so connected to our devices and to people, in an artificial way, that we don’t have as much of an opportunity to even get to know ourselves,” Nard said.
She ended with noting the importance of caring for yourself and utilizing the counseling center when students feel as though they need the necessary help.
“The counselors love meeting with students and working with them to address any mental health concerns they experience,” Nard said.