Jenny Coon is one of the two university counselors at William Woods University, with whom students can set up an appointment with to talk about issues like anxiety and feeling overwhelmed in school. Coon recently shared with Woods Today reporter Veronica Townsend about how counseling services can be a wonderful resource that can be utilized to ensure all are staying mentally healthy at all times, especially during COVID-19.
How has COVID 19 impacted your job?
I do not really think COVID-19 has impacted the volume of students that come in, but it has impacted us in that we have to be careful with maintaining distance and leaving the mask on when seeing them in person. There is also the option to see students virtually this year. Students can also choose to change their appointment to virtual at any point during the semester.
What does an appointment look like for a student entering counseling for the first time?
Students can set up a time with our Clinic Operation Manager Jenn Burton, who does our initial scheduling. They can call her at 573-592-4222. She will help them find a good time on the schedule and also send initial paperwork to complete. After that, they can always contact their counselor if they need to cancel or find a better time to meet.
Appointments can be provided in-person or virtually at this time. In-person appointments are located in Aldridge. A new method this year due to CO-VID 19 is virtual appointments. Students are sent a link, where they will go to a virtual waiting room until their counselor can “meet” them at their appointment time. The format is like a FaceTime call.
During the first appointment, I will give a background of what counseling looks like and will emphasize confidentiality in counseling. For me, counseling sessions are student led. If a student is coming in and needing to talk about a relationship that day or classes from the other day that is completely fine, even if their overall goal is family issues and managing anxiety. The session is open to whatever students need to talk about.
What is the best way for freshmen and transfer students to make friends during a time where social distancing is in place and events are becoming more virtual?
My best advice for new students is to create a “family unit” while at college. New student gatherings will not look the same as in the past, but students can create a small group in which they feel comfortable interacting, sharing meals, and having fun together. Additionally, students will need to remain open-minded. Few of us enjoy zoom meetings and virtual activities but remaining open to these new ways of life can open the door to meeting new people.
How do you get students during this time to think positive?
Students can focus on positive self-care and creating a routine such as going on a walk or meditating at the same time every day. There are more restrictions around campus such as physical distancing and wearing face coverings, when required, that are out of the control of students. So, coming up with positive ways to have control is important in staying optimistic.
In sessions, I spend time challenging negative thoughts and getting students to recognize them. Recognizing them is the first step and then being able to challenge those negative thoughts with truth and positive thought.
What is the benefit of having counseling on campus?
Counseling is a great benefit. If a student was to look for a counselor out in the community, it could come at a cost. Having the opportunity to have appointments once a week or twice a month, is a great resource. Coming to counseling does not mean that you are in crisis – many students come because they want to learn positive ways to cope with their feelings and thoughts – before reaching a crisis.