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Four new counselors hired to help students with stress and other issues

2019-04-17-New-Student-Counselors
Risa Herrera, Lisa Allison and Kevin Young are three of the four newest licensed professional counselors. Herrera and Young will serve the Gainesville Campus, while Allison is based on the Dahlonega Campus. Debra Nelson, not pictured, will join the staff in May.

Dr. Kel Lee Cutrell, associate director of counseling services at University of North Georgia (UNG), said Student Counseling hits its peak service time in March and April as final exams near.

"We go from seeing five to six students a day to eight students," Cutrell said.

Student Counseling is able to handle the increase after it hired four new licensed professional counselors for UNG's Gainesville and Dahlonega campuses. Three of the hires, Kevin Young, Risa Herrera and Debra Nelson, serve the Gainesville Campus, while Lisa Allison is based on the Dahlonega Campus.

Cutrell said the additions are a welcome relief, especially on the Gainesville Campus, which operated with only two counselors for months. Now, the campus is fully staffed with five.

"If students called and it was not a crisis, it could be three to four weeks before we could see them," Cutrell said. "Now we have openings within 24 hours."

She said the time between a call and an appointment is crucial.

"It takes motivation and courage to make a phone call seeking help," Cutrell said. "If we don't get them in for an appointment, we may lose that opportunity to help the student."

The new licensed professional counselors bring their own expertise and passions to the job.

Herrera is bilingual and has used her language skills to help translate the forms into Spanish for students. She focuses on the LGBTQ community and multiracial issues. Before she joined UNG, Herrera was a community support team lead, working with individuals in the community who had severe and persistent mental illnesses.

Young worked eight years as director of a substance use recovery support program for teens and six years of family counseling in community mental health. His clinical expertise includes treating addiction, depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and self-esteem.

Nelson is set to join the Gainesville Campus staff in May. She started her counseling career at Samaritan Center for Counseling and Wellness and has worked for community service boards before joining UNG. The experienced licensed counselor is passionate about helping students deal with trauma.

On the Dahlonega Campus, Allison specializes in mood and addictive disorders. She has been in the counseling profession for more than 10 years and uses patient-centered techniques to facilitate change.

With Allison's addition, the Dahlonega office will have six full-time and one part-time counselors.

Counselors provide one-on-one attention to students dealing with issues ranging from depression and anxiety to relationship issues and substance issues. And to help alleviate stress before final exams, all five campuses offer activities ranging from games and free food to pet therapy dogs and coloring stations, depending on the campus.

Cutrell said the breaks have a noticeable effect on students.

"I see students come in and watch their bodies relax, then they smile," she said. "I hear sighs of relief."

Stress relief breaks for UNG students

Pizza and Papers Luncheon on the Blue Ridge Campus

What: Pizza will be offered to students as they work on their end-of-semester papers

When: Noon Wednesday, April 17

More info: A quiet study space and snacks will be offered during finals week.

Pre-Final Stress Relief on the Cumming Campus

What: Massage chairs, do-it-yourself stress balls and snacks

When: 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 24

De-Stress Fest on the Gainesville Campus

What: Massages, games, coloring or hanging with Happy Tails Pet Therapy Dogs

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, April 25, in the Robinson Ballroom in the Student Center

Game Day on the Oconee Campus

What: Board games, video games, prizes, giveaways and free food

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 24

No de-stress activities are currently scheduled for the Dahlonega Campus.

 

 

 

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