Sometimes, I get tired of hearing about boyfriend or girlfriend troubles, or how fat my adorable friends think they are. Before you judge me for being a horrible person, know this: I do love helping people out with their problems, but that enjoyment stops when I’m so busy helping someone else that I don’t reserve enough room in my mind to think about my own issues.

Let’s be honest, we all have a host of problems that we either turn and face, with variable success, or that we shove down into the far reaches of our unconscious so we don’t have to deal with them. Sometimes the problems seem trivial to an outsider’s perspective; for example, it seems obvious that everyone experiences bumps in their relationships, right?

Regardless of how trivial a problem may seem, if it’s an issue that’s getting in the way of your success at college, or even just your enjoyment of your time here, Western has an incredible resource: the Counseling Center.

Hey! Don’t stop reading now just because you think you’re mentally stable or that counselors are for people with bi-polar disorders or serious depression; in fact, the director of the Counseling Center, Dr. Nancy Corbin, said the following, “Probably the majority of students who come in to the Counseling Center do not have a well-defined problem they are seeking help with, but are hoping to get help with better understanding themselves, their relationships, their direction and purpose in life.”
Issues with relationships can include breakups, conflicts with a roommate or co-worker, difficulty in negotiating the difficulty of changing relationships with parents or a feeling of loneliness and disconnection, according to Corbin.

Say you are realizing that you may have a few things that you would like to discuss with a counselor; that’s expensive, right? Not for Western students. We are lucky enough to get ten free sessions with a counselor per academic year. This is just the right amount of time to help you “clarify, problem-solve, plan, practice, express feelings, be honest, gain insight, understand [yourself], accept, work on changes, and so forth,” according to the Counseling Center’s web site.

The biggest difference between Western’s Counseling Center and a traditional counselor– remember the office at your high school?– is the avoidance of giving clients advice. The web site states that, “We believe that growth comes from developing one’s own inner compass.” By allowing for clients to facilitate in their own mental growth and healing, the counselors give clients the path to mental health, and help guide them in taking the steps.

The only exception to the avoidance of giving advice is if a student is truly in a personal crisis and is desperate for a knowledgeable person’s opinion. In this case, counselors will give their best advice and guidance.

The individual counseling over ten sessions does not, however, fit everyone’s needs. According to Corbin, same-day appointments can be scheduled for a student if there is any risk of suicide, harm to others, serious self-harm, or a personal crisis– such as the loss of someone close or the concern about safety of a friend.
For students who are seeking support groups where they can discuss problems they’ve been having with people who have similar concerns, the Counseling Center offers free events with a discussion-based format.

Students who’d rather not discuss their personal problems, but still want to improve themselves and learn skills, classes and workshops are offered every quarter for free. “The Relaxation Class is very popular. Who couldn’t benefit from learning some strategies for managing stress and helping yourself get to a state of relaxation,” asked Corbin.

“’Riding the Emotional Waves’ teaches skills for “surfing” your emotions without losing control. This quarter we are offering a Social Skills workshop that has been well-attended. Our Math Confidence workshops have been in place for many years and we hear have helped a lot of students. Our hope is that these workshops and classes will give students easy access to ways of learning skills to improve their quality of life,” Corbin added. To find out times and locations for these events, you can visit the Counseling Center’s web site or pick up flyers from the Counseling Center in Old Main 540.

Self-help is a common first step towards recovery, which the Counseling Center offers a great deal of resources for as well. Their web site, http://www.wwu.edu/chw/counseling/index.html, hosts a vast amount of topics with information about all of them. Even more information can be found in the Counseling Center’s reference library. The books that the center has are listed on their web page and can be checked out at the main desk during office hours.

If you’re still not convinced that you need any of the fantastic, free resources that the Counseling Center provides, I think Corbin says it best: “The college years are such an important time to attend to your complete health—emotionally, physically and spiritually. I talk to so many students who say they are sleep deprived, usually grab a latte and bagel on the way to class, and have very little time to reflect on who they are and where they want to go with their lives. Things have become so fast-paced and students’ efforts to have so many experiences may mean they are compromising on the quality of those experiences on their bodies, minds, hearts, and souls.

If you’re interested in checking out what the Counseling Center has to offer, please visit the office at Old Main 540, or call 650-3164.