STEPHENVILLE, Texas — In the midst of rapid change on campus and across the globe, Tarleton State University’s Student Counseling Services (SCS) remains open for business, not only assisting existing clients but offering support in a variety of ways and formats to the entire campus community.
“When we first got the news about extending spring break and moving to remote learning, we immediately began to adapt,” said Student Counseling Services director Dr. Brenda Faulkner.
“Over the past four weeks as those initial plans have evolved into finishing the semester online and students studying remotely, we’ve developed a library of support material for our students, we identified and launched a telehealth platform to continue providing services to our existing clients, we adapted our alcohol and drug sanction program to a telehealth option, and we’ve adapted many of our educational opportunities to provide virtual content.”
A series of short videos is on YouTube at the Tarleton Wellness channel. Topics are wide-ranging and include hope and resiliency, how to succeed in online courses, changing your thoughts and behaviors, and accessing helpful online resources. Fresh topics are being explored on a regular basis.
“We started developing video content soon after the transition to a virtual format for many reasons,” Faulkner said. “This provides an easy way for our community members to access helpful information about mental health and well-being, no matter where they are geographically. And because the videos are on our YouTube channel, faculty and staff can link to them or even embed them in online material. It provides a lot of flexibility for making content available to our community.”
Staff members have created handouts of simple wellness and self-care practices to help stay grounded in the face of uncertainty. The handouts have been shared across the community, and SCS is working on adding the material to its website.
The site includes a wealth of existing resources, including a link to online mental health screenings students can access to anonymously get private feedback.
“The mental health screenings can be helpful for students who are struggling with whether they should seek support,” said James Dinh, assistant director of SCS Fort Worth. “We always encourage people to err on the side of seeking support. You don’t have to have a mental health disorder or a diagnosis to visit with a counselor, and you’re in control of how long you access counseling.”
The screenings can be accessed at https://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/tarleton.
Substance abuse and violence prevention efforts have transitioned to a virtual format, too.
“April is typically a very busy month for us,” Faulkner said. “It’s one of our big outreach months because April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and over the past four years our campus community has taken up this cause in creative and inspiring ways. We have become accustomed to seeing the color teal — the color associated with SAAM — all over campus and having lots of face-to-face interactions as we provide outreach and training.”
Prevention videos are available at Tarleton Wellness. Initial topics include an introduction to SAAM, power dynamics in violence, and a collaboration with the campus Title IX office addressing digital (virtual) consent.
Information is shared on the center’s social media channels. The Tarleton Student, Tarleton Sports, Tarleton Greek and Tarleton State accounts are among those that have shared SAAM-related content, and community members have been interacting with it and re-posting.
“It has been inspiring to see our community continue to champion this important topic,” said Caris Thetford, SCS assistant director for prevention. “None of us knew what to expect as we scrambled to continue our traditions during the month but in a different way. Our community rose to the challenge and continued their commitment to promoting a healthy campus culture, in-person and online.”
Counseling services are available for individual and group appointments at the Stephenville and Fort Worth campuses. While staffing has been adjusted to meet social distancing guidelines, the office is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday in Stephenville, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday in Fort Worth and Fridays in Fort Worth from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Additionally, tele-mental health services are available 8 a.m.-5 p.m. for Tarleton students in Waco at the McLennan Community College Student Counseling Center.
“We still have students accessing services in-person, but we have quite a few students who are accessing support from home through telehealth appointments,” said Waco associate director Jill Willis.
Virtual appointments are available to clients who have been seen in the center in-person. Students who need support but who have never been to the center may call 24/7 to discuss options. SCS in Stephenville is at 254-968-9044, with the office inside the Wellness Center on the first floor of Traditions North.
For SCS in Fort Worth call 682-703-7048; the office is on the first floor adjacent to the main entrance, near the flagpoles. In Waco call 254-299-8210 or visit the Counseling Center in the Wellness and Fitness Center, Room 101.
“We also are continuing to offer our Alcohol and Other Drug sanction class via a telehealth option,” Dr. Willis said. “So although our numbers are down a bit with the disruption caused by the pandemic, we are still actively providing services. We’re starting to see an uptick in our number of clients as students settle into their ‘new normal’ and re-engage with mental health support.”
Faulkner also emphasized that SCS is a resource to faculty and staff.
“We have always been available for consultation with our faculty and staff, and that hasn’t changed. We are a phone call — or a Zoom meeting — away,” she said. “If a faculty or staff member is concerned about a student or interested in offering mental health-related content to a class or has an idea about a way we can partner for our students, we are available.”
The Counseling Center website is https://www.tarleton.edu/counseling/.