By Abby Weingarten
Now that the vast majority of students have moved out of the residence halls, vacating the campus in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak, the staff members at New College’s Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) are waiting for the proverbial dust to settle.
Survival mode is the action of the moment but, once the adrenaline subsides and students begin to feel the weight of their new normal, CWC counselors and psychologists are more than ready with virtual support.
Licensed psychologists Anne Fisher, Ph.D., the CWC’s program director; and Duane G. Khan, Ph.D., the assistant program director, have worked throughout spring break to reorganize services—moving sessions online to a video chat platform for students who are still in the state of Florida. The whole staff worked under the leadership of Dr. Keith Kokseng, the CWC’s associate program director, to prepare for the shift.
“We’ve moved 100 percent to telehealth so all students will be seen over the Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) program (as long as they are in Florida; right now, that’s what our current licensure laws require),” Fisher said. “We’re not planning to do COVID-19 testing; we have so few students and we don’t really have the capacity to do it. The only students to see the ARNP in person would be ones she has already talked to through teletherapy and deems safe to come into the building.”
In addition to counseling services, the CWC will be sending out a weekly wellness newsletter (starting Wednesday) with tips on how to stay fit and practice mindfulness. Staff members are also encouraging students to access websites with the most accurate, updated information on the coronavirus, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Florida Department of Health and the World Health Organization.
“It’s really important that people have a growth mindset when it comes to dealing with this situation. Nobody is supposed to know how to handle a crisis or a pandemic,” Khan said. “The better strategy is for people to identify their strengths and ways that they’ve gotten through disasters in the past. Use self-compassion. Choose news sources that are depoliticized and just give you the facts.”
Using Google hangouts or Zoom, and having a coffee or social hour electronically, are all positive approaches, too.
“People need to accept what they cannot change,” Fisher said. “You can choose when you’re going to take in the news. It’s really important to take some time and take a breather from all that.”
Fisher and Khan have faith that New College students will emotionally persevere during this crisis.
“This is a community. The students support each other. They’re supported by the faculty and staff in a way that doesn’t always happen at larger institutions,” Fisher said. “Our students are smart and they know to reach out for mental health services.”
Khan echoed Fisher’s outlook.
“Across the board, our students are achievement-oriented, goal-oriented and get things done despite all sorts of barriers,” Khan said. “We have one of the highest utilization rates in the country for a counseling center, precisely because students are interested in working through their issues.”
When students finally return to campus, Fisher said, “I hope we’ll be able to have a real healing in the fall.”
For more information on the Counseling and Wellness Center (and how to get student health services during this time), call 941-487-4254 or visit ncf.edu/cwc/student-health-services/.
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.