Last year alone, The University of Alabama Counseling Center saw 24,000 students through 7,000 student sessions. Though October is the busiest season of the year for the therapists and psychiatrists of the UA Counseling Center, the end of the year still sees high numbers of students coming to work through problematic situations and seek advice on everything from school to personal life, all in strict confidence.
Ian Sherwood, a psychology trainee who has been with the center since late August, is pursuing a Ph.D. in his field. Like the rest of the Counseling Center’s staff, he enjoys seeing his patients succeed and finding out what they want from their university experience.
“I’m able to do therapy, but since I’m still a grad student the clients I see are under less stress,” Sherwood said. “I’ve always loved talking to people, and I had a really great high school instructor who sort of pushed me in this direction.”
According to the Student Health Center, the Counseling Center also engages in community outreach programs, such as alcohol and drug abuse awareness campaigns and college adjustment seminars for the Week of Welcome.
“One thing we’re working on right now is the Stress Free Daze, which takes place right after finals week before the winter break,” Coordinator of Clinical Services Jennifer Turner said. “We might show movies in the Ferg and offer food and just anything that helps students unwind and relax.”
Although he is still a student, Sherwood works with professionals like Turner on a regular basis. Sherwood also works with other programs like the Suicide Awareness Walk, a cause he said is close to his heart. Most of the time, however, he is counseling students one-on-one.
“A session lasts about 45 to 50 minutes,” Sherwood said. “We talk about someone’s life, what concerns them, sometimes we follow up on previous sessions. Just help the students work through their problems.”
The center has attempted to increase its presence on campus over the past year, particularly by promoting their free group therapy sessions. Turner said these sessions have traditionally been invisible to students, but cover everything from tornado recovery to body appreciation and self-kindness. Group therapy complements their regular paid services such as individual help and couples’ counseling, which covers every type of interpersonal conflict.
“Most people think couples’ counseling means romantic, but we usually do siblings, or intervene with roommate problems,” Turner said.
Sessions cost $15 after the first consultation. For students who cannot attend sessions, the center offers a 24-hour hotline called the Listening Ear, and works with as many communities as possible on campus, from residential houses to the women’s health center.
“We have a lot of 101 classes come request us to come speak about anxiety, especially from the psychology department,” Turner said. “But anyone can request our services, be it speaking or outreach. Somebody even asked us to do a time management one next week, but they had to reschedule.”
The Counseling Center is located at the 1000 South Lawn Office Building, and can be reached at 205-348-3863. For more information, visit counseling.ua.edu. All inquiries are confidential.
“What we provide is a much-needed service,” Turner said. “It’s an area where you can see change in your clients very quickly, which is very positive. This is a safe place for students and faculty alike.”