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Lessen the effects of stress with the Counseling and Testing Center

Through the Counseling and Testing Center, students can learn healthy and beneficial ways cope with the stress that comes along with being a college student. It’s an appointment that can prove extremely beneficial in the long run and it won’t cost a thing. Students have already paid for all of the services through their mandatory fees.

Dr. Jill Lee-Barber, director of the Counseling and Testing Center, said many students come into the center as a preventative measure when they are feeling stressed, depressed or dealing with tough issues.

Lee-Barber explained the body uses pain as a signal that change is needed. She used the classic reaction to fire as an example.

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“Pain informs you that something needs to change. Emotional pain is no different.”

Mind-Body clinic

On any given day, Delores Williams and Dr. Kofi Kondwani are sitting in La-Z Boy-styled chairs with their eyes closed and the lights off. A student is sitting next to them doing the same. It would appear they’re sleeping. After all, many students can appreciate a good daytime nap. They are actually consciously resting.

Williams and Kondwani believe through Consciously Resting Meditation they can improve student’s quality of life. According to CRM, students who clear their minds for 20 minutes twice a day are able to perform better, improve concentration and, when the time comes, have a deeper, more productive rest.

After students are taught the CRM techniques in individual sessions, Williams and Kondwani offer group sessions for students that need some fine-tuning.

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The clinic also offers stress management consultations, which are also geared towards helping students increase their concentration and sleep quality through stress reduction.

While they are taking care of their minds, students can also schedule an appointment to see to Patti Garrett, registered dietitian, to work on their bodies. Garrett consults with students and, based on their desires, helps them to form reasonable eating goals and plans of actions. In a follow-up, students are able to meet with Garrett again and discuss their progress.

“Sometimes it’s just information about how to eat healthier, how to
shop healthier. Some of the students are living on their own for the first time
and nobody’s cooking for them,” Garrett said. “We try to meet each student where they are so that we can help
them make healthy choices based on what their living situation is.”

Through a series of questions, Garrett makes suggestions to students about their eating habits, suggesting recipes and more based on allergies, food restrictions, budget restrictions and preparation limitations, such as living in a place without stove access.

Lee-Barber said the nutritionist consultations that are a part of the mind-body clinic are different than the nutrition services that are offered through the Rec for a fee.

“[It’s] more connected to mind-body health.”

Garrett agreed. She said eating better can also help students to improve concentration and reduce stress.
“By eating healthier, it’s helping you take care of your whole self.”

Students also have access to a massage chair through the clinic. Lee-Barber says anyone with a Panther ID can use the chair, although they may want to reserve a time slot during busy times like midterms and finals.

Performance enhancement center

Jeana Griffith and Angela Bethea were both brought onto the Counseling and Testing Center team because they specialize in sports psychology, but they don’t just see athletes.

“They apply principles from sports psychology to other areas,” Lee-Barber said.

Charged with getting students “in the zone,” the psychologists help students who suffer from performance anxiety in areas like testing, public speaking, music, sports, interviews, presentations and more.

The performance track includes consultations with the psychologists and access to the biofeedback room. Once in the room, students connect to a machine and play a series of games aimed towards decreasing their stress. One game shows a black and white garden that comes into color as students learn to regulate their breathing and decrease their anxiety.

Many students participate in activities that require them to constantly be on edge, but this is one game that allows them to “win” simply by doing nothing but sitting back and relaxing.

Counseling services

Lee-Barber said the employees at the clinic realize there is a stigma regarding going to therapy for many students, so they offer walk-in clinics for students to start off.

“Students don’t have to commit to therapy. All they have to want to do is talk to someone and see what’s needed.”

Lee-Barber explained many students don’t need multiple counseling sessions; they just need someone to talk to once to help them solve a hard problem. But for those students who do need short or long-term counseling, or psychology, those services are available, too.

The center offers individual and couples counseling, in addition to support groups. The support groups include sessions with undergraduates, graduates, students who have been through traumatic experiences like sexual assault and African-American women and co-ed groups.

“Groups are an awesome way for students to connect and really learn from each other,” Lee-Barber said of the sessions, which also include a therapist.

She said couples really seem to benefit from couples counseling, and the Center even offers a relationship boot camp that lasts for about a month.