Counseling Services Prepares for Upcoming Year

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The counselors at Shepherd have prepared for the new academic year as the number of students needing services continues to increase. According to a record by the counseling department, a total of 1,953 appointments were made during the 2012-2013 academic year. These appointments varied from recurring students to individualized sessions. Counselor Rhonda Jackson has worked in the mental health field for more than 23 years, six at Shepherd. “Mental health, sexual assault and alcohol are all issues that compromise a students ability to function successfully, academically and it’s also a retention issue,” declared Jackson. “If these types of issues go unaddressed, the chance that the student can even remain here decreases drastically. Among the biggest reported issues for students at Shepherd this past year were anxiety, stress, depression and relationship issues. Though the counseling services stated that there is no limitation as to what problems are addressed. “It’s hard to pinpoint a prevalent issue. We work with whatever comes through the door,” said Shanan Spencer. Spencer is the newest member of the counseling team. She has more than 20 years experience in the field. Spencer began working for Shepherd in 2011. After being counseled for four sessions, students are asked to fill out an anonymous survey.  According to results from the surveys, one student said, “I always felt like she cared about what I had to say without being judgmental.” Another stated that “counseling has truly been a very positive experience for me.” Students can come in Monday through Friday during business hours throughout the semester to seek counseling. “We don’t turn anyone away. As soon as a student begins to feel overwhelmed, that’s a really good time to come in and see what services we have to offer,” explained Spencer. In addition to the therapy services provided, the counseling department plans to continue expanding campus wide resources. The counseling services received a three-year grant, which will be awarded starting this year. The federal grant comes from the Department of Justice by the Office of Violence Against Women. Shepherd is in partnership with nine other universities and colleges in West Virginia with Fairmont State being the primary applicant. The amount awarded from the grant is divided between all 10 schools in the amount of $300,000 to be given over the course of a three-year periodThe counseling department will utilize the grant to train members of the police department, disciplinary board and students during orientation on how to respond to sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence. Two major programs planned for the fall semester include hosting both the Sexual Assault Prevention and Collegiate Alcohol Awareness week on campus. The counselors also have various workshops and events planned throughout the year. “We are focusing on programming that can pull as much student engagement as possible,” said Jackson. Depression and Anxiety Screening Day is another event planned for the fall. In 2012, almost 90 students were screened. “It is our goal to make it easy for students to know where to come for help,” declared Spencer.

Rhonda JacksonShanan Spencer

Counseling Information:  Office Hours: M-F 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Location: Ground Floor of Gardiner Hall
Telephone: 304-876-5276
Call for appointments