Campus Life

Counselling Services offers safe haven

When it comes to maintaining their physical health, people know where to turn. However, maintaining one's mental health may present unique challenges and it is important to know what resources are available to students on campus.

The University of Lethbridge, through collaboration of the Counselling Services office and the University Health Centre, has created a safe environment through which students can get the assistance they need.

"This is a trusting and nurturing place where you can refocus and get some balance to your life," Counselling Services Coordinator Barbara Williams says.

"If we can reach out to folks and make them realize that everyone, at some point in their lives, hits some kind of a bump. If you are unable, for whatever reason, to find your own way around it, then this is a safe and reasonable place for them to come for some help."

The Counselling Services office is celebrating its one-year anniversary in Turcotte Hall (TH218) and Williams and her staff could not be happier with the change in location. Previously located in the Registrar's Office, that site did not provide the privacy they so desperately need to help students feel comfortable when they are seeking assistance.

Williams describes the new office as a one-flow environment where students can come in, be discreetly directed to a counsellor and then leave through a separate entrance — all designed to build trust and honour privacy.

The months of January and February are typically difficult times for many students, Williams explains. For new students, the reality of their first post-secondary term has hit with the first set of grades. Some have found it difficult to adjust to the university lifestyle as the newness of the experience wears off. Combine that with the cold, dark days of winter and the post-Christmas lull and it can be a tough time.

"This is the point where they are really changing a lot about themselves and their environment," she says.

"They've been out there trying to implement some of the strategies that worked for them in high school and discovered they may not work for them anymore."

It is important students recognize when they need help — and that's before they hit a crisis point.

"You don't have to be in crisis to come here, in fact it's so much better if we can have students come to us when they are feeling a little stressed or that there is something that's not balanced in their life," says Williams. "It's much better if we can get them at that point because the strategies that we can help them incorporate into their lives will be much more preventative."

It is a team approach they use, one that reaches beyond the counselling office to the Health Centre where psychiatrist Dr. Wayne Edwards can also be utilized. Williams' team is well rounded and can deal with any issues that walk through the door.

"We are all mental health professionals but various members of our team come with different educational backgrounds and different clinical backgrounds so they are able to bring those strengths into our unit," she says. "That allows us to funnel our students to the counsellor who gives them the strongest support."

Allison Roest is one of those counsellors. She's quick to add that they do not do all the work, getting through a problem is a shared responsibility with the student.

"It's a collaborative process, it's not something we're going to do to them, we're going to work together with the student in order to find solutions to whatever is happening," Roest says.

What is important to remember, adds fellow counsellor Mark Slomp, is that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, rather it's just the opposite.

"We really see counselling as an empowering experience," he says.


• The Counselling Services office sees more than 70 students per week, on average

• Counselling Services offers a variety of outreach programs and workshops, headed by Heather Rowland. The workshops are psychoeducational and Rowland says it can be a non-threatening way for students to engage in counselling services

• Counsellors Allison Roest and Mark Slomp teach a full-credit course in career development, available to all students through the Faculty of Education

• To make an appointment with a counsellor, contact the Counselling Services office at 403-317-2845