Counseling services offered at AU


Isabella Pacinelli

Students are greeted with useful resources and pamphlets to help with problems that may arise.

Isabella Pacinelli , Features Editor

Adjusting to college can be hard for even the toughest of people. Ashland University provides the services to make big problems seem a little smaller with the counseling center located on the second floor of the Hawkins Conard Student Center.

Licensed Professional Counselor for AU, Jenny Preston, believes mental health resources are necessary in colleges because of the level of stress involved.

“You are changing environment, you are changing friend groups, especially for incoming freshmen, and there is a lot of academic pressure on students,” she said.

The hours of service change each semester but generally, the counseling center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Preston said.

Director of Counseling Services and the Health Center, Oscar McKnight, has been working with Ashland University for over 25 years.

With multiple university locations, such as the Mansfield nursing campus and the Cleveland and Columbus Centers, McKnight and Preston travel to meet with students.

“Jenny will be down at the nursing campus one day in the evening,” McKnight said. “I typically go to Columbus on Fridays.”

The AU counseling center also includes distance counseling which allows students to communicate via text and telephone.

“A lot of students do student teaching, study abroad or they don’t want to come in here,” he said. “People would prefer to do distance counseling so we offer that as well.”

This also provides a bigger opportunity for students at other AU sites to utilize the services that are included in the student activities fee and are free of charge.

“We have contact with over 400 students a school year,” McKnight said. “Some people we see every week, every two weeks or every month.”

Session times range anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour but depend on the student’s need, he said.

Many times, students are referred to the counseling center by professors or coaches, Preston said. However, students are able to request an appointment at any time and for any reason.

Preston and McKnight try to schedule appointments within two days of being contacted. From there, they balance schedules with the student to find a time that works best.

“A lot of students who come here have already been in therapy and received medication,” McKnight said. “We do what is called wrap-around treatment, so we just extend their treatment here.”

AU counseling services are prepared to meet with students who have been previously placed under institutional care. Those with clinical depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are also treated.

The three biggest crises that students come to counseling for are divorce, death of a grandparent and death of a pet, McKnight said.

“Those three things seem to always happen within the first 6 weeks of school,” he said.

The counseling center also offers learning tools, career assessments, IQ tests and personality profiles. “There are other positive reasons students would come here that are not clinically related,” he said.

The stigma placed upon counseling is a generational problem, according to Preston. “It is changing which is great,” she said. “But it’s still very underlying that in order to come to counseling you must be crazy, which is not the case.”

McKnight sees the issues that bring someone into counseling as the reason for fear and stigma. “There are things that can happen to you that you don’t really want to address,” he said.

Previous perceptions of what the counseling experience will be like may also hinder a person’s willingness to reach out.

“It is just a conversation,” McKnight said. “Students shouldn’t be fearful of anything.”

The focus tends to become about being relational with students, Preston said. “And that kind of takes some pressure off.”

Both McKnight and Preston agree that the most rewarding part of being a college counselor is watching students succeed within their personal and professional lives.

“College is a really interesting time, everything is new and you are trying to figure out where you fit in the world,” Preston said. “It is really enjoyable to watch kids work through that and to be a part of it.”

McKnight frequently teaches learning techniques and appreciates seeing dramatic grade changes from the students with whom he works.

If a student does not feel comfortable seeking help from the AU services, there are many private counselors around the area. “There is also the community mental health center who we are very close with and refer back and forth,” McKnight said.

Nonetheless, students are using the AU counseling center. “I don’t think students feel intimidated coming here,” he said.

The center provides coffee, tea and pretzels as small gestures to welcome students. It is a safe space to relax if nothing more, McKnight said.

Preston also usually brings her dog in on Fridays for students who might just need a puppy fix to make their day a little brighter.