Ask any typical college student how they’re doing and you’ll likely hear one of two replies: ‘good’ or ‘stressed.’ The first is usually just a cover up for the latter. College students simultaneously juggle daily classes, exams, jobs and internships, and, in some cases, full-time commitment to athletics. All of this puts major strain on the minds and bodies of undergraduates, and it’s not uncommon for them to experience a few mental breakdowns throughout the course of their college career.
When the chaos of a packed schedule becomes overwhelming, it’s important for students to have an outlet to turn to that will help them decompress. Luckily for the students at Calumet College of St. Joseph (CCSJ), there is a great resource right at their fingertips in the form of Kerry Knowles, a mental health therapist at Crown Counseling in Crown Point.
“I’m at the college two days a week to provide students with an outlet as part of the Student Assistance Program (SAP),” Knowles said. “My services range from simply having a chat about things they have going on to full fledge therapy sessions dealing with past trauma, depression, or anxiety. We also do crisis intervention and help direct if there is ever a time where a higher level of service is needed.”
This is Knowles’ second year working with CCSJ, though Crown Counseling has been offering their services there for the past four years.
“I love that the college recognized the importance of mental wellness,” Knowles said. “Adjusting to this period between adolescence and adulthood can be a difficult time, and I’m glad they saw a need for this on campus.”
Students can see Knowles by appointment if they wish, though her door is always open for walk-ins and impromptu chats.
“Those are my favorite days, when they just pop in,” Knowles said. “That means I’ve built a comfortable space for them and I love that.”
Since Knowles started, the program has continued to expand as students recognize the difference that just one visit to her office can make.
“This year has seen an influx of students at my door due to fantastic word of mouth referrals from students I’ve worked with,” Knowles said. “Just last week I had three students come in together, two I had worked with before, and they brought in someone new just by sharing their experience here.”
Knowles encourages students to come see her whenever they feel the need, and aims to make students feel as comfortable as they can.
“I want my office to radiate positivity and comfort, so it’s covered in butterflies,” Knowles said. “I also like to keep tea and cookies in there—I’m always open for a vent session over tea.”
The best part about the program? Knowles’ services are completely free, a huge relief for students already struggling to pay tuition and rent.
“I think what students don’t realize is that people pay a lot of money for services like this, but for them, they have this amazing free option,” Knowles said. “I want them to feel comfortable enough to take advantage of that while they’re here.”
The term “therapy” can sometimes have a negative connotation in the eyes of students, but Knowles is working to change that.
“Sometimes our fear gets in the way of seeking help, but we’re not meant to do life alone,” Knowles said. “It was my intention to create a warm environment where they feel comfortable to sit and talk about their deepest fears, or just take a minute to regroup.”
Knowles explained that therapy looks different for all her students, too.
“I have students who come and paint for half an hour, or do yoga and meditation, or just sit and have a cup of tea,” she said. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all type of service here, and I want them to know that whatever they need, I’m here for them.”
Knowles will be on campus on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. during the spring semester, door open, positive atmosphere, and plenty of tea and cookies to go around.