RIC Counseling Center Offers Students Confidential Services

Left to right, front row: Tom Lavin, Donna Lamoureux, Andrew Keith, Denise Smith Back row: Rhonda Beck, Catherine Conroy, Jan Park, Ryan Porell

Left to right, front row: Tom Lavin, Donna Lamoureux, Andrew Keith, Denise Smith Back row: Rhonda Beck, Catherine Conroy, Jan Park, Ryan Porell

What good will it do to talk to someone?

That’s a response RIC Counseling Center Director Tom Lavin often hears from students who are reluctant to seek mental health counseling when overwhelmed with personal and academic difficulties.

But talking, Lavin said, is often exactly what they need.

“As humans, we have an innate need to be understood and comforted, and sometimes another person can help soothe our distress when we can’t do that for ourselves,” he said.

The Counseling Center provides students confidential and free, voluntary counseling with licensed psychologists who offer what Lavin calls flexible short-term therapy. That means that most students see center staff for a few sessions.

Often, he said, that is all they need. In fact, The National Institute of Health reports that up to 80 percent of people treated for depression show less severe symptoms within four to six weeks.

For those who wish to continue counseling, the center connects students to off-campus service providers. The center can provide additional counseling for students who are not able to afford outside care.

“We cannot change what is happening in their lives, but we can change the perspective from which the student views a situation,” Lavin said. “College is a time of life filled with uncertainty and stress. Any kind of loss, failure or disappointment can seem unmanageable. A college student experiencing suicidal thoughts is not rare.”

Those thoughts can be escalated by a highly publicized suicide death, such as that of Robin Williams, who died on Aug. 11.

“People identify with celebrities, and hearing of someone dying by suicide may make suicide seem more possible to a person vulnerable to it,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s easy to recognize when someone is distraught, but other people are very good at hiding their distress.”

Resident assistants undergo training to help recognize when students may need help and to encourage them to seek help. For college faculty and staff who are not trained – as well as a student’s peers – Lavin advises watching out for distress signs that include behavioral changes, especially increased anger or irritability and decreased participation in class and activities.

The Counseling Center also provides a variety of group workshops and programs aimed to help students fully develop their intellectual, emotional and social potential.

These programs include Quieting the Mind, a weekly mindfulness meditation hour held every Thursday during the academic semester, from noon to 1 p.m. in Craig-Lee Hall, Room 130. This program resumes on Sept. 4.

“It is really a good opportunity to pause and change our natural sense of frantic doing,” Lavin said. “It shifts your perspective to being more present and living one moment at a time. This becomes an inner resource when we get distressed, which we all do.”

For more information on Counseling Center services, visit www.ric.edu/counselingctr or call 456-8094. All services, including appointment inquiries, are strictly confidential and are not reported on student records.