University of New Haven's Counseling Center at the Forefront of Easing College Anxiety
The University's Counseling and Psychological Services Center is ready to welcome new and returning students to the University, endeavoring to help them ease the transition to college life and the stress that comes with being a college student through a variety of programs and services – including some that involve cuddly canines.
August 26, 2019
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
The lifeblood of the University of New Haven are the faculty and staff members who dedicate their lives to helping our students reach their goals, including those at the University's Counseling and Psychological Services Center. They strive to help students resolve personal challenges and enable them to acquire the balance and skills that will help them to make the most of their experience at the University.
Charles Anderson, Ph.D., ABPP, the University's director of counseling and psychological services, discusses how the center has been preparing for the fall semester, services available to students, and advice for students and their families.
Renee Chmiel: What has the Counseling Center been doing over the summer to prepare for this academic year? Charles Anderson: This summer, we have been working on developing creative ways to introduce new and returning students to our clinic and our staff members. One of the most fun things has been shooting footage for video introductions to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) featuring our therapy dog, Brue. We also use the summer to plan outreach programs for the students that always include “Dogs in the Halls” events, in which therapy dogs are brought to campus to interact with students. We will now include alternative and holistic approaches to treatment, including fun events designed to bring awareness of our services to the campus community.
We are working with our campus chapter of Active Minds, the nation's premier nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for students, to bring speakers and to plan events to promote mental health awareness on campus. We are also working to create promotional materials that students will also find fun and interesting, such as our “Cownseling Cow” stress cows and our “Brue Buttons.” We have new button designs in the works, as well as new sticker designs that will both be ready for the fall semester.
RC: What services and programs will be available to students if they are feeling any stress or anxiety this semester? CA: We always have therapists available to help students resolve anxiety symptoms through the classic forms of individual and group therapy. We also have a psychiatrist that can help with medication treatment options. Some amount of stress is a normal part of college, but when it gets overwhelming or interferes with relationships or academics, we encourage students to make an appointment with us. As always, the first appointment is considered a consultation, so the student can meet the therapist and discuss options before formally entering a therapy relationship.
RC: What is the Counseling Center doing differently this year to serve students? CA: In addition to the animal assisted therapy that our therapy dog provides, we will be piloting “Mindful Mornings” dog walks with Brue for students this semester.
We are also offering alternative, holistic forms of treatment, including aromatherapy and acupressure/acupuncture, which is focused on auricular points. We will offer these as outreach programs to the campus community, as well as small group opportunities within the counseling center.
In addition, we will be launching new peer-led anxiety support groups beginning this fall, as well as an iConnect group focusing on social interactions.
RC: Students have had opportunities to interact with puppies on campus in the past – is that happening this year? CA: Last semester, we were very lucky to have 11 Malamute puppies that were old enough to “work” just in time to join us for our mid-semester “Dogs in the Halls” program. We strive to bring therapy dogs to campus in a large group at least twice a semester, usually right around the high-stress times of mid-terms and finals. The timing worked very well for the puppies, as they were just the right age to be brought to campus.
Here's a fun fact: Can you guess how much it would cost to buy one of those Malamute puppies? Answer: $1,500!
RC: Do you have any tips/advice for students/parents to help them adjust? CA: We encourage students to become active in the many clubs, sports, and other social opportunities we have on campus. Also, if you find yourself struggling, don't put off seeking help. Come in and talk to us. We can work it out together.
For parents, we recognize it is also a major transition for them to send their student to college. Try to strike a balance between staying connected and letting your student know you are there for them – but don't be so connected that they feel like they never left home. It's really all about balance and providing the dual needs of support and independence, which may be a little at odds with each other at times.
RC: What else should students know about the Counseling Center's services? CA: It's important for students to know that they never have to worry about being able to see a counselor. If students are ever in distress and need to speak with someone, all they have to do is walk in and ask to be seen right away. Once a student decides they want to be in therapy, we can generally see students on a weekly basis. We also want to remind everyone that all of our services are offered at no charge. Our philosophy is that we treat the first contact as an informal consultation, which allows us to decide together when and if we will enter a formal therapy relationship together.
Our hope is to make a conversation with us as easy and uncomplicated as possible, giving students a chance to get to know us while also preserving their freedom to choose.