From the homesick freshman to the senior who was sexually assaulted as a child, University of Findlay Counseling Services assists students with a wide range of mental health issues.
“The reason this service is essential is, we don’t want any mental health problems or situations preventing students from reaching their academic goals,” said Director Karyn Westrick.
Westrick, LPCC-S, is one of three full-time licensed counselors on staff who can diagnose conditions and therapeutically treat them. The team serves about 80 students per week.
Westrick has seen the clientele increase in recent years as both bad and good – bad because people are still experiencing mental health issues that need to be addressed, but good because more people are seeking assistance.
“Years ago, people needed to be nudged into the door. Now, there’s less stigma. There’s more self-electing,” said Westrick. “People are starting to accept this as more of an element of healthcare and wellness.”
Counseling Services offers both group and individual counseling; helps students with more serious issues find outside assistance (such as those who need immediate assistance for eating disorders or attempted suicides who need to be hospitalized); and helps graduating students find continuing mental health care outside of the University if they still need it.
Westrick said the most common problems her office addresses are anxiety, depression, and trauma; the first two often go hand-in-hand, but anxiety took the lead over depression during the 2014-15 school year, she maintained.
A primary hurdle Counseling Services regularly addresses is the expectation that some have for a quick fix. “In the Dr. Phil world, everything is addressed within 30 minutes, but it can take some time to address some of these issues, realistically,” Westrick explained.
The time factor, and the sensitivity of subjects discussed, is why mental health counseling is a calling rather than a job, Westrick continued. “Students can trust us with some of their deepest personal feelings. Sometimes this is the first time they’ve talked to anyone about their issues. That therapeutic relationship is special,” she said.
The tenacity and courage that Westrick sees in students – some of whom are facing the most dire problems that would severely challenge anyone – never fail to impress her. “Students have so much resilience and fortitude,” she emphasized.
Westrick added that UF Counseling Services helps all sorts of students. “We often get people believing that people who access these services are not fully invested in their education, that they have no chance at success. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” she said. “We see many students who are on the high achieving end. These are our student leaders, high achievers, who are also struggling to find their niche and get good grades.”