Counseling Service sees increase in available staff

Tyler+Zeimet+%28%E2%80%9819%29%2C++Neve+Heimer-Lang+%28%E2%80%9819%29%2C+Stu+Johnston%2C+Mimi+Finger+%28%E2%80%9819%29+and+Maren+Phalen+%28%E2%80%9819%29+support+students+with+their+work+in+counseling+services.+
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Counseling Service sees increase in available staff

Tyler Zeimet (‘19),  Neve Heimer-Lang (‘19), Stu Johnston, Mimi Finger (‘19) and Maren Phalen (‘19) support students with their work in counseling services.

Tyler Zeimet (‘19), Neve Heimer-Lang (‘19), Stu Johnston, Mimi Finger (‘19) and Maren Phalen (‘19) support students with their work in counseling services.

Photo courtesy of Counseling Service

Tyler Zeimet (‘19), Neve Heimer-Lang (‘19), Stu Johnston, Mimi Finger (‘19) and Maren Phalen (‘19) support students with their work in counseling services.

Photo courtesy of Counseling Service

Photo courtesy of Counseling Service

Tyler Zeimet (‘19), Neve Heimer-Lang (‘19), Stu Johnston, Mimi Finger (‘19) and Maren Phalen (‘19) support students with their work in counseling services.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To celebrate, Chips is highlighting one of the mental health resources on campus.

In the four years that Director of Counseling Services Meg Hammes has been working in Luther College Counseling Service, this semester is the first that the office has not had a waitlist for their services. This is because of changes the counseling staff made this year in order to help students receive the proper care they need in a timely manner.

Previous to these changes, LCCS only offered part-time counseling positions for staff members. This spring semester, LCCS opened up a full-time position which increases the availability of clinical services.

The higher utilization of the LCCS at Luther called for an increase in their student support, according to Hammes. Five years ago, LCCS was providing counseling services to 10% of the student body, while this year, they have provided services to nearly 20%.

LCCS is also changing their approach to their services. LCCS is beginning to adopt a “stepped care” model that focuses on the different needs of students.

Starting in the fall semester, when a student seeks services from LCCS, they will complete initial paperwork and then immediately meet with a counselor for 20 to 30 minutes to discuss their concerns. Hammes is excited about this approach because she believes it will allow students to have services tailored to their needs.

“We have also been working to revamp our service delivery model,” Hammes said. “Over the past academic year, the staff within LCCS have taken some time to read, research, and talk with other college counseling services regarding best practices to meet increasing demands for services.  Our goal has been to find a service delivery model in order to eliminate or reduce any wait for services while providing rapid access to student requests for services.”

This process will help students determine if they need one-on-one counseling, a peer-to-peer discussion, or to join a support group.

LCCS offers a variety of mental health services. These range from outreach and education to crisis emergencies. They also host peer-based support groups such as NAMI, a support group for those experiencing mental illness; Actively Moving Forward, a support group for those dealing with the loss of a loved one; and KORU,  a mindfulness meditation group. LCCS also offers one-time workshops, three-to-four week group sessions for managing anxiety, a support group for students experiencing relationship violence, and a wellness recovery group.

Additionally, they offer a program called Therapy Assistance Online that allows students, faculty, and staff to access self-help and therapy on an online platform. TAO can be accessed by going to thepath.TAOconnect.org.

LCCS is hoping that students will utilize these services and seek help when they are struggling with their mental health. Hammes believes it is the whole community’s responsibility to take care of the well-being of a student’s mental health. Many staff, faculty, and students have participated in mental health first aid training, with 205 people trained this year.

As the utilization of LCCS has increased, Hammes believes that the stigma around mental health is continuing to decrease. However, Maren Olson (‘20) still finds that the stigma around mental health makes it difficult for students struggling with mental illness to seek help.

“I still think there’s a lot of stigma around people getting mental health services, not just at Luther but in general, so I think that’s what makes a lot of people reluctant,” Olson said.

This year, LCCS has reached 1,560 students through their outreach efforts including hosting workshops and tabling.

Outreach Assistants such as Tyler Zeimet (‘20) play a big role in these efforts.

“We work with one of the counselors, Bobbi-Jo, to plan and carry out many mental health-related events each month,” Zeimet said. “We do activities like tabling and hosting workshops on topics such as ‘How to Help a Friend’ and ‘Self Care.’”

LCCS uses a variety of services to reach out to the Luther community. In the future, they hope to increase diversity within their staff. Right now, they are able to represent diversity from gender, sexual orientation, and first-generation college student perspectives, but they would like to be able to represent from a racial perspective too.

More information about LCCS can be found on their Facebook page, Luther College Counseling Service; or their Instagram,

@luthercounseling.

“Counseling service is a great option,” Zeimet said. “It can be hard to take that first step to reaching out for help, but the staff will work with you to make a plan that fits your needs.”

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