Counseling Services is more than just ‘all ears’

Counseling Services faculty

Counseling Services faculty

By Jessica Auriemma

“Honestly I just wish that I had a better idea of what Counseling Services actually does on campus.”

This seems to be the overall feeling about Counseling Services. Many students have only a basic idea of what this facility does, but a quick visit to their office or website provides students with information about the services offered.

According to the Fitchburg State University website, Counseling Services “offers a range of services including individual, couple, and group counseling, crisis intervention, psychoeducational programming, outreach workshops, and community referrals.”

Director Robert Hynes wishes the student body knew about this resource. “I want the student body to know that we’re here, we’re available, and we want to help and will always do our best to help students be successful here,” Hynes said.

Not only are there seven counselors available for students to talk to during university business hours from Monday to Friday, but the Web page also provides several numbers for hotline and emergency services if a student is having a crisis and needs a person to assist them with their problem. In addition, a student is allowed to make an appointment for whomever they wish, whether that be for his- or herself, a roommate, or a friend. Students are able to schedule as many meetings as it takes for them to feel that they have reached a satisfactory solution.

Hynes is so committed to the well-being of the students at Fitchburg State that he lists the most memorable and rewarding moments of his career as the emails, cards, and letters from graduated students thanking him for his help and updating him on their lives and professions.

Students who don’t take advantage of this service on campus tend to list two major reasons: they believe that the counselors don’t have actual degrees in psychology and that they won’t be afforded the privacy usually guaranteed by other counselors.

However, even a quick visit to the Counseling Service office or web page proves both of these assumptions to be completely false. Hynes, who serves as both the director of this service and the assistant dean for Student Support Services, has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and all of the counselors employed have independent licenses in social work or mental health.

Even the interns, who some might be wary of due to only having the title of trainee, are “graduate students with advanced standing who are completing their final training requirements for Masters and Doctoral degrees in their disciplines,” Hynes said. “Furthermore, all services provided by interns are provided under the supervision of full-time, licensed staff members.” As for the question of whether the therapists will discuss the private information after a session, there is one major reason why none of the counselors would ever disclose their patient’s secrets, Hynes said: They care about them too much.

“These students come to us when they feel alone and implicitly trust that we will not only listen to their problems and provide assistance but that all sessions are completely confidential,” Hynes said. “My colleagues and I value this faith enough to feel that violating this trust would be a major breech of the values associated with this service.”

Overall, Counseling Services seems to be the place to go if a student wishes to vent their problems to a nonjudgmental and sympathetic person who can also hopefully provide some assistance.

If you or someone you know feels like they could benefit from talking to a counselor, feel free to call Counseling Services at (978) 665-3152, or walk in and make an appointment from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. In addition, students can take advantage of the “Walk-In” hour without an appointment from 2 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office is located in the Hammond Building, on the 3rd floor, room 317.

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2 replies

  1. Thanks, Dr. Hynes, for the feedback! We have updated the article to make it more accurate.

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  2. First, let me thank the staff of The Point for taking the time to learn about Counseling Services at Fitchburg State. As always, I enjoy any opportunity I get to talk about what it is we do in the Office, and highlight the important work that my colleagues and I take such pride in.

    This article starts from an odd place (e.g., “wasting money on a service I don’t understand”), but I’m appreciative of the efforts of The Point to clarify some misconceptions, and ultimately, I think, paint our Office in a more positive (and accurate) light.

    Let me take a brief opportunity to add a few additional points:

    More than 300 students thus far this academic year have used the services in the Counseling Office. Several hundred more students, every year, participate in our Screening Day events, participate in our Take Back the Night event, or have opportunity to meet our staff in classrooms, on athletic fields, or in the Campus Center. Whereas there may always be individuals on campus who are unaware of the Office, or unfamiliar with what goes on there, rest assured that my colleagues and I do what we can (within reasonable professional limits, given the work that we do) to make ourselves known and accessible to the Fitchburg State community.

    This article (accurately) speaks to the fact that the full-time staff in the Office are all licensed mental health practitioners with advanced degrees in their disciplines (e.g., clinical psychology, mental health counseling, social work). Additionally, this article states that some of the services provided in the Office are provided by interns; whereas this is accurate, it should be noted that the interns in our Office are not, in fact, “junior and senior psychology majors,” but rather graduate students with advanced standing who are completing their final training requirements for Masters and Doctoral degrees in their disciplines. Furthermore, all services provided by interns are provided under the supervision of full-time, licensed staff members. Our interns do outstanding work with their clients, and we are fortunate to have their services here at the University.

    Finally, I found some of the comments (provided by students who were interviewed) that called into question the Office’s commitment to privacy and confidentiality rather ill-informed, to say the least. All staff in the Counseling Services Office have legal and ethical mandates to maintain the confidentiality of the information which we are privileged to receive from our clients. Quite simply, there is no other standard that we put a higher value on. I would hope that the readers of this article, particularly those who are considering use of our services, will disregard any off-hand statements by individuals who don’t understand how seriously we take privacy and confidentiality in the Office.

    Again, my thanks to The Point for taking the time to help the community better understand our Office. Best of luck to all with the remainder of the semester, and, as always, stop by or give a call if there’s an issue you feel like you’d like some assistance with. That’s why we’re here.

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