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UNG's student counseling offers more than just stress relief, therapy to students

Joyce Darden-Arnette works with students on the UNG Cumming Campus in the Student Counseling office. Her specialty is facilitating women's groups, addressing physical, mental, and emotional well-being, as well as strategies for building self-efficacy.

Two words, more than any other, may cause the average college student to feel dread: final exams.

A week before finals, the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Student Counseling and other offices and organizations are offering students a little respite from Dec. 4-8 with its annual Stress Relief Week activities.

Students started de-stressing Nov. 30, when dogs from Happy Tails Pet Therapy group from Atlanta visited the UNG Gainesville Campus. Four dogs were available for students to pet in the Robinson Ballroom in the Student Center. Other activities such as free chair massages, free hot chocolate and snacks, a relaxation class, the movie "Elf," and comedian Morgan Jay are scheduled throughout the week on various campuses.

Stress Relief Week activities are sponsored by the Blue Ridge Campus, the Student Government Association, Recreational Sports, Career Services, Office of Student Involvement, Nighthawks Entertainment Board, and Student Counseling.

These activities are a snippet of the resources available through Student Counseling. With all of the support programs, the center's mission is to help students identify their problems, manage their emotions, learn new problem-solving skills, and successfully meet academic, social and life challenges.

Dr. Simon Cordery, director of Student Counseling and a licensed psychologist, explained the offices on the Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville, and Oconee campuses operate similar to doctor's offices.

"We offer the same services a psychologist or counseling office does, but there is no additional charge," he said.

Services include, but are not limited to:

  • Individual, couples and group therapy and counseling
  • Suicide prevention and education
  • Problem solving
  • Time management skills building
  • Brief crisis intervention and stabilization
  • Relaxation training
  • Distress tolerance skills building
  • Alcohol and other drug abuse counseling

Students are asked make an appointment in advance, but it is not required in a crisis.

"We tell students if there are tears, we want you to walk in," Cordery said. "If there are tears and snot, we want you to come running."

Once students are within the walls of a therapist's office, their anonymity is paramount.

"Everything is confidential," Cordery said.

Students can meet with one of the many licensed professional counselors; most have a penchant for specific issues. For example, Cordery enjoys dealing with students who struggle with eating disorders. Sarah Meng specializes in trauma and working with people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning. Joyce Darden-Arnette's specialty is facilitating women's groups, addressing physical, mental, and emotional well-being, as well as strategies for building self-efficacy. Some of our specialties on the Gainesville Campus are trauma work and biofeedback, said Kel Lee Cutrell, associate director of Counseling Services at UNG.

For more information about other specialties, visit the Student Counseling website.

Student counseling, however, is limited on a few situations.

"We don't prescribe medications," Cordery said. "And if students need a higher level of care, we refer them out."

However, Student Counseling always answers the call in an emergency.

"If there is a death or a trauma, we meet with those affected groups," Cordery said.

On the Dahlonega Campus, Student Counseling has a 24/7 crisis phone. A counselor is on call to help evaluate any crisis situation in a residence hall. The office also conducts outreach programs on healthy relationships, suicide prevention and alcohol programming.

After the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, UNG developed a Behavior Intervention Team (BIT) to help identify and intervene with students who may be at risk of hurting themselves or others. UNG also developed the "See Something" reporting system; on the campus police and dean of students' websites, students may clink the "See Something" link and fill out a report.

"BIT then talks about it and decides what to do to help," Cordery said. "We try to diffuse a situation before it becomes a bigger crisis."

Cordery explained the office also tracks its progress with students through a satisfaction survey.

"The students fill out an anonymous survey at the end of the semester about how they felt about the counseling and therapist," he said. "More than 90 percent of our clients rate the therapy they receive at student counseling as good or excellent. And 75 percent of our clients report our services help them perform better academically and stay enrolled."

Stress Relief Week Activities

Blue Ridge Campus:
Dec. 4-8: Wear tacky holiday sweaters and post pictures to Facebook
Dec. 11-15: Free snack as "Fuel for Finals"

Cumming Campus:
Dec. 6: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. free massages in the first floor lobby
Dec. 12: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. free Chick-fil-A in the first floor lobby

Dahlonega Campus:
Dec. 5: Noon to 1 p.m. Encouragement Day with stress relief bay on the Hoag Patio
Dec. 6: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hot chocolate bar on Hoag Patio
Dec. 6: 9 p.m. Comedian Morgan Jay and an ice cream bar in the Hoag food court
Dec. 7: 10 p.m. to 12 p.m. Midnight breakfast in the dining hall
Dec. 8: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Fall fitness cooldoow with relaxation exercises in the Rec Center

Gainesville Campus:
Dec. 6: 9 a.m. to noon Hot chocolate and cookies in the Student Center commons
Dec. 6: 5-6 p.m. Food for Finals in the Student Center Commons
Dec. 7: Noon to 1 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. Stress breaks with chair massages in the Student Center commons
Dec. 11: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cram Jam with hot chocolate, granola bars and free scantrons in the Student Center commons
Dec. 11: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CAREing Paws with dogs Jesse, Timmy and Boo in the John Harrison Hosch Llibrary
Dec. 12: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cram Jam with hot chocolate, granola bars and free scantrons in the Student Center commons

Oconee Campus:
Dec. 4: 6:30 p.m. Holiday movie "Elf" with Waffle Bar in Bishop Wellness Center
Dec. 6: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Recreation and relaxation with massages, games and coloring in Bishop Wellness Center

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