By: Angela Murillo-Martinez
As Austin Community College enters another semester of distance learning, the college’s mental health counseling services have adapted to support students at a virtual scope. ACCENT spoke with Manuel Zamarripa, Associate Dean of Counseling, about the support and resources ACC offers.
The balance between work, school, hobbies and education can seem like too much to handle at times–especially during a global pandemic.. And with campuses being closed to non-essential faculty, staff and students this too means that counseling sessions have moved as an online service. Students can continue to receive private counseling from their own home through virtual sessions. ACC offers free mental health counseling to currently enrolled students.
You get a first session, where you get a lot of background information,” Zamarripa said. ““Then you get six sessions after that, so you get a total of seven sessions with a counselor individually.
Some have trouble deciding when and if to visit with a counselor or therapist. Mental health isn’t a one size fits all situation, but ACC’s counselors are trained to work with anyone, no matter their situation. And if needed, the counselors can always provide referrals.
It can be anywhere from, ‘Hey, I need someone to support me,’ or ‘I have a couple of decisions coming up that I need to make,’ or ‘I’m feeling kind of stuck,”’” Zamarripa said.
Students can schedule appointments through the counseling page found on the ACC website. In these sessions students can talk to trained clinicians who can speak to you about various topics. All sessions are private and confidential unless the student provides written permission to share information with someone else. ACC not only provides individual counseling but also has group counseling.
“We do offer groups, which are another good way to get support,” Zamarripa said. ““We offer about two to three groups every semester, and the topics always change; some of them stay the same.”
The topics discussed in these group counseling meetings tend to change every semester, although they are a couple of topics that remain as students continue to request them.
“We get the most requests for anxiety and dealing with anxiety,”Zamarripa said. ““So we tend to offer some groups in some way about anxiety to help students.””
Although the idea of group counseling can seem nerve-racking at first, being around students who have similar struggles as you can create a great support system. It can also help you realize that you are not alone and see that you have others rooting for you.
“It can be really supportive, but it can also be to the other end, like some people who are having severe anxiety or severe depression,” Zamarripa said. ““They can come in, and we try to help them find strategies of coping.””
Although taking that first step towards therapy can seem scary, ACC’s counselors are here to help every step of the way, so you are not alone. As we continue to physically distance ourselves from others and take socialization to a virtual realm Zamarripa emphasizes the importance of checking in on one another, but more importantly, on yourself.