With the hustle and bustle of the start of the semester, the average student’s responsibilities can become overwhelming and taxing on his or her mental health. Luckily, NSU has made provisions for its students through numerous health care resources, including Graduate Assistant of Student Counseling Services Yanique Levy.
Levy is a Jamaican-born, fourth-year student in the clinical psychology program who has a passion for working with college students. She hopes to eventually work fulltime in college counseling or in a hospital as a member of a multidisciplinary team. Though she now works as the graduate assistant for student counseling, two years ago, she served as a residential assistant. I was able to sit with Levy to learn more about the student counseling program.
How did the idea for this position come about?
“The position was formerly referred to as the Counselor in Residence, but we have transitioned to it being the GA for student counseling because the aim is not only to serve residential students, but also increase our reach to commuter students.”
Did the Counselor in Residence only work with residential students?
“The counselor in residence worked with commuter students as well, but to a lesser extent. Now, [with the shift from the counselor in residence, to the graduate assistant for student counseling] we’re pushing more for the inclusion of commuter students.”
What do you do as the GA for student counseling?
“I am a confidential, motivational resource that students can meet with to talk about their problems or concerns. Students sometimes fear speaking about certain topics because they fear repercussions – even though these feared repercussions might not come to fruition – so, I can assuage their fear of getting into trouble and then point them in the right direction of other resources available to them.”
“I provide on-call crisis coverage – that’s 24/7. In addition to that, I also help with mental health educational programming and can partner with any department or clubs at the university who want to target mental health.”
“I’m also a bridge for Henderson Student Counseling because they are our licensed psychologists and mental health professionals, and students get ten free sessions there, so we always want to encourage students to use them.”
Do you work as an extension of Henderson Student Counseling?
“I wouldn’t say that I’m an extension of Henderson because I’m employed under DOSA as one of the university GAs, but I work hand-in-hand with Henderson as an on-campus point of contact for students who I refer to Henderson. Their licensed psychologists use evidence-based treatment for their students, which is what I’m learning in school.”
“I find that using me as a point of contact is very good because I’m able to calm their [students’] fears and I can take them over to Henderson if they like … We’ve found that it increases the chances that students actually make use of Henderson’s services whenever they need it.”
I have office hours where students can come to me. Right now my office is in the Goodwin halls room 209B.”
What would you say to someone who’s not ready to open up or who is uncomfortable about talking?
“It’s a process … It’s not a magic pill; your problems are not going to go away by tomorrow. I definitely understand why it’s hard to open up but I also know that students who come to my office, were able to make that first step and there’s a reason why they made that first step and I let them know that I’ll continue to be there until they’re ready to talk. If they want to come to my office and sit, and then come back the next day and sit until they feel comfortable enough to start talking, we can do that.”
“Sometimes it’s easier for people to talk about what’s physically wrong with them because you can see a cut or a broken bone … but it’s a little bit more sensitive when people talk about mental health, family issues, body image issues; it’s hard, so being brave enough to even come into the office is a big thing; that’s a big step and we just take it from there.”
What about those who’ve tried meeting with a counselor or therapist before and left discouraged?
“It could be the fit. There’s a certain level of fit that has to take place. The first time I went to a psychologist, we didn’t fit, so when I went back, they paired me with someone else. Fit is important. If you’re not comfortable with the person and if you don’t have a certain “vibe” with them, then it’s not going to work; you’re going to feel uncomfortable.”
“Also, it’s important to remember that the first session is usually different from the others because that’s when you’re asked a lot of questions so that the therapist can get a better idea of your situation, and think about how to approach the challenges that you have and so forth. So, I’d suggest giving it a little time. But, it’s just like choosing your medical doctor for your primary care. If you felt like the doctor is just too rude or they don’t explain enough, you’d find someone else because that’s what makes you feel comfortable. It’s the same thing; you shouldn’t feel stuck with someone.”
How do you address the stigma that is associated with therapy?
“One thing I talk to my students about is that if me saying ‘hi’ to you in public makes you feel uncomfortable because you’re afraid to have people know you’re meeting with me, I can pretend that I don’t know you to keep that privacy. I also try to reduce the stigma through different programming events. I’ve been involved in events with RecWell and even the Out of the Darkness walk.”
“Generally speaking, stigma is a challenge in various circumstances and may have a lot of cultural underpinnings. It is important to approach this on a broad basis but also on an individual basis where the individual’s fears are normalized and the origin of their thoughts about stigma are discussed.”
“I’ve seen over time how not picking up on the signs, not getting the support that you need, how that can be detrimental to someone’s life and it’s even more sad when it’s a young person with a bright future. My position here is to ensure that all the students at NSU, have a chance to excel, irrespective of whatever challenges they may have; that it’s not a dead end road for them.”