Cindy Franco, senior sociology major, was finishing her first year at CSUN when she realized that she needed help. The strains of university life had gotten to her and she needed someone to talk to.
“I felt overwhelmed with my classes and the general pace of the year,” Franco said. “I was struggling a bit to find a balance between college, work, and my personal life, and then someone recommended that I go see a counselor. I did and the sessions really helped me get back on track.”
Franco went to University Counseling Services, a free on-campus counseling program that offers an open door for students, faculty, and staff who may find the whole college experience to be overwhelming.
“Plain old stress,” is the number one reason students seek counseling services, said Mark Stevens, director of UCS. “Being a college student and managing academics and relationships (can be stressful).”
“Typically, we see 35-40 new students every week,” Stevens said. “After the initial visit, many students come back every three or fours weeks for further consultations.”
Stevens said most students come for one on one personal counseling.
According to the UCS website, counseling is given by a staff of licensed counselors helping students with a wide variety of emotional problems.
“What we ask students to do is to make an appointment and then have them come in and take an intake assessment,” Stevens said. “The assessment is basic information that gives the counselors an indication of what services are appropriate for that individual’s problems.”
“(The assessment) helps give the counselor a big picture of what is going on with the student,” Stevens said.
The Counseling Services Graduate Training Program provides supervised training in individual and group settings. It offers graduate student the opportunity to participate in various activities at the UCS.
Students are trained in various areas, like eating disorders, depression, and rape counseling and go to junior and high schools to speak to students and create awareness of these problems, he said.
One of the focuses of the UCS is to help students find a way to deal with situations that come up that cause them to feel anxiety and stress, Stevens said.
“Many of the issues we counsel on are topic related. From academic success to sleep improvement, to relaxation groups, we cover a variety of topics,” Stevens said.
The center has its own relaxation room, where students and faculty are welcome to come in when they need to a break to relax.
Many students are referred to UCS by their professors, especially when they believe a student has an issue or concern that is seriously affecting them, Stevens said.
There is no need to worry about having personal issues discussed in private sessions with counselors being disclosed to others he said.
“We have strict confidentiality rules,” Stevens said. “Unless we have authorization from an individual to disclose certain things to others, we don’t. We will only seek additional outside referrals if that person is a danger to themselves or others.”
The center has an emergency on-call counseling service for after hour times when the center is closed or when students cannot get to.
The (818) 349-HELP line is designed to direct callers to trained volunteers who will listen and talk to the caller, as well as provide referrals to different resources in the community Stevens said.
“It’s a crisis intervention that is not only offered to students and faculty, but to the common folks around the area,” said Stevens.
“We doing pretty good,” said Stevens of the UCS’s current ability to support its counseling programs.
“Our job is to make counseling feel welcoming for people, because there is a stigma about it,” Stevens said. “It’s not so mysterious, and it’s actually a quite beneficial resource for people to use.”
Wendy Valladares, senior marine biology major, volunteered to work the phone lines to help her fellow students when they need help.
“The CSUN Helpline is a great program,” Valladares said. “It offers a valuable service to the community. I enjoyed the time I volunteered there, I felt like I was able to help those who just needed someone to listen.”
“Recognizing a problem and reaching out for help, is one of the best things someone can do,” Stevens said.
Sandy Archila can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.