Kelsey Brady, managing editor
Affairs, Lindsey Taylor, announced via email that Berry’s Counseling Center named Becca Smith as the new director. With Smith’s arrival came expansion to the operations and counseling opportunities of the Counseling Center. These opportunities include the introduction of group therapy, emotional wisdom workshops and the reintroduction of in-person counseling sessions.
The Counseling Center is still offering individual counseling sessions as well as after hours on-call crisis intervention, according to Smith. The individual counseling sessions are now back in person after the move to telemental health, due to the COVID-19 virus.
“Everything was strictly on the computer to do therapy,” Smith said. “This year we are going back to in-person with masks. Students feel more comfortable doing that so that’s a little bit of a change just because of COVID to go back to in person therapy.”
Crisis intervention services through the Counseling Center remain the same, but Virtual Care Group now provides a 24/7 crisis hotline that is available online to students free of charge. According to Smith, upon contacting the Virtual Care Group either through the app or online, the hotline will connect the student with a counselor immediately. According to Smith, Berry counselors are still available for after-hours crisis assistance but the telehealth option provides more immediate and direct assistance.
Smith has worked in college counseling centers in various capacities at Aurora University in Illinois, Valdosta State University in Valdosta and most recently, at Georgia Southern University in Savannah.
“I’m coming from a couple different universities and I’ve always done group therapy,” Smith said. “So for over a decade, I’ve always offered group [therapy] as an addition to individual counseling.”
Some group sessions this semester will include “Love your Selfie,” which centers around building self-confidence and another called “Failing Forward” that focuses more on perfectionistic tendencies and navigating through self-compassion, according to Smith.
Before participating in group therapy, students have to meet with a counselor for an intake session, Smith said. The groups consist of 6 to 8 people, and they meet once a week throughout the semester. Groups will begin meeting at the end of Sept. which allows Smith enough time to gather people to form a group.
“They can still see their individual counselor as well, but group [therapy] is every week,” Smith said. “We usually do individual counseling every other week so we can get as many students in as possible.”
Smith also mentioned that students can come to the first meeting and see how they like the group before committing to an entire semester. After the end of the first semester, students do not have to return to the same group if they wish to pursue a different option.
According to Smith, after the group is full, the group closes and no other students are allowed to join untilatra the beginning of the next semester. To get involved in group therapy, contact the Counseling Center.
For the fall semester, the other counselors, Terri Cordle and Carley Price, will co-facilitate the groups alongside Smith with the intention of leading their own groups in the spring.
Another addition to the Counseling Center resources is the Emotional Wisdom Workshops that take place in the Commons in the Memorial Library each Tues. evening from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Smith said topics include self-confidence, test anxiety, relaxation and stress management along with others. The workshops will take place in person, but they will also be offered live via Zoom and recordings will also be available for people unable to attend the sessions in person. The Zoom link is available on the Counseling Center website and will remain the same each week.
Smith will be leading the workshops and she is providing this resource for people who are not as comfortable with coming to the Counseling Center and asking for counseling directly.
“Some people, aren’t sure about counseling or not sure about talking one-on-one, but they’re like ‘hey I am having some test anxiety and it looks like I can go to the Commons and just sit and learn some more,’” Smith said. “If they meet me, it may break that barrier down for them to come and ask [for more information]. It’s a neutral place.”
“Solution sessions” are also now being offered to students as a 30-minute counseling session to assist students with coping strategies until their intake session or next meeting with a counselor.
“We have that opening from 2 to 4 [p.m.] every day,” Smith said. “It switches who is in charge of solution sessions. One day, I don’t set any appointments during that time and students can come in and there’s four slots technically unless someone’s in a major crisis, then I might go over thirty minutes to assess them.”
The time slot does not extend until 5 p.m. to allow counselors to have time to connect students in crisis with the resources they may need. Meeting times can be flexible if students are in severe need earlier than those hours or do not have any availability from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on a particular day, according to Smith.
“We just want to make sure that students know that they don’t have to wait if they have the need to see someone now,” Smith said.