Marshall University students in need of counseling and support may look no further than in Twin Towers East. The university is now offering counseling services provided by Thomas Holland, the new counselor in residence, a position created by the Counseling Center, Housing and Residence Life and the clinical psychology doctorate program.
“The counselor in residence position, in general, is not a new idea to college campuses, and dating back to the late 1990s you see the beginnings of that position,” Holland, a second-year doctorate student, said. “But it is new to Marshall, so it’s my understanding that several of those departments saw a large influx of cases in which mental health was in need of more hands on deck inside the residence halls.”
As a psychology student, Holland will be conducting research as well as providing counseling services to students in need. He said the counselor in residence position will consist of three main components.
“First is traditional counseling services during office hours,” Holland said. “The second is programming through the Housing and Residence Life. Many times you hear of resident advisers and other staff and faculty giving presentations on different aspects of life inside of the dorms, but my job will be to provide psychoeducation on the latest research on mental health components. We’re looking to call those ‘Tom Talks.’ The idea is we’ll be putting forth provocative, not controversial but certainly interesting, ideas that will help draw students in and provide presentations on them. It’s initially starting with myself, but we want to broaden that to other doctoral students and other individuals inside the community to help provide more awareness for our students and how they can address mental health concerns that are very prevalent on Marshall’s campus.”
The third aspect of Holland’s job is outreach and spreading awareness of the mental health services that are on campus.
“I can’t tell you if I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say ‘I didn’t know we had a psych clinic, I didn’t know we had a Counseling Center, I didn’t know these resources were available otherwise I would have been using them or I would have been seeking them out,’” Holland said. “And so, one part of my position is I’ll be placed inside of a residence hall so that there might be less barriers there for students to feel comfortable coming and receiving services because it’s literally in the main lobby. We are kind of out of the way over here, but that also stands to benefit some privacy as well, too.”
Holland will offer office hours on the first floor of Towers East. Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday his office hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays he will be available 5 to 6 p.m. and Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. Every other Sunday, he will have office hours as well.
“I am a son of Marshall, and so I think that was a component of me being hired as the first one here because I had experience living in these halls, living in First Year North, remembering what it was like, what homesickness feels like when your parents first leave,” Holland said. “Or for some others like there is no homesickness it’s just like ‘I want to go out and do everything all the time.’ Knowing these halls and knowing this campus really intimately was an attractive component on both sides, for me and for the faculty and staff who hired me on to come and serve here.”
Students seeking Holland’s services may enter the Towers East lobby, inform the desk assistant and fill out their information.
“In my office hours, how that will work, basically is students will come into Twin Towers East, and they will sign in at the front desk through a special noninvasive procedure,” Holland said. “There will be a special sign in sheet that they sign where the front desk staff won’t ask a lot of questions, so they know that this person is there for services. They’ll come to my door and through an online procedure that we’re setting up currently, they’ll be able to come in and receive 30 to 45 minute short term therapy. I’ll also be providing consultation for resident advisers; I’ll meet with them and talk to them about students who might be at risk for negative outcomes, and just helping to provide even counseling for resident advisers and other staff members because they deal with and see a lot. I also provide house calls and during my office hours will be on call for crisis assessment. Many times I work in conjunction directly with the Counseling Center and serve as a sort of buffer between them when a crisis happens; it takes them about 30 minutes to dress and get here to campus, but I live on campus so if it’s inside of my office hours, I’m able to go and help provide crisis assessment until that on call counselor is able to come.”
Holland said he is most looking forward to spreading mental health awareness and helping Marshall students in need.
“The one thing I think I’m looking forward to most is just working with different staff and faculty to provide services that will help increase retention for students,” Holland said. “We live inside an underserved population inside of West Virginia, very rural. Many times first generation students come to our halls and many of them are unfamiliar with the services that mental health can provide them, and that we can help our students and that everyone is on that same page desiring to help our students in this way. It is exciting for me, and so, those 5 to 9s, those evening hours where I’m a presence within the halls for students to come to. If we can help individuals stay on track and have a better wellbeing, that’s the goal and that’s the exciting part for me.”
Amanda Larch can be contacted at [email protected]edu.