Although Furman offers an array of mental health and student success resources, many of them appear to be outside of common student knowledge. A student may infer that for issues related to mental health, they should contact the Counseling Center, or to request an academic accommodation, the Student Office of Accessibility Resources (SOAR). But many are unfamiliar with how these and other offices in the Division of Student Life operate and what additional resources may be available to them if they are struggling. Through discussions with Associate VP for Student Life Jason Cassidy, Ph.D, and Assistant Academic Dean Tracy Carner, The Paladin got a clearer picture of the diversity of resources offered by our Student Life and Academic Affairs offices.
The Divisions of Student Life and Academic Affairs encompass all offices related to student success and mental health–each of which provide resources in a different context of wellbeing. Two qualifiers play the largest roles in the way these offices and resources are structured: What a student might need and to what extent they are struggling.
For example, in instances where a student finds themselves struggling in academics, the Center for Academic Success (CAS) may be of help. For cases that do not necessarily concern a disability, CAS provides opportunities to meet with an academic coach, work with a peer tutor, or receive help from the Writing & Media Lab. Less familiar, however, to those without accommodations before college is the Student Office for Accessibility Resources (SOAR), which can provide classroom accommodations such as “extended time on tests, test proctoring, note-taking assistance, and access to assistive technology.” Any SOAR accommodation requires students to submit third-party documentation confirming a learning disability, but SOAR emphasizes that students can meet to discuss their needs even before acquiring all the right paperwork. Their website states, "Our first priority is meeting with you, not reviewing the paperwork."
For additional guidance in managing academics and personal life, Stephanie Boyd, Associate Dean of Student Success and Wellbeing, serves as a first contact who can help students get connected to the appropriate resource. In her words, "I may get the student connected to the Counseling Center, SOAR, an academic dean, a Student Success Coordinator, Earle Student Health Center, Center for Inclusive Communities, Financial Aid, Spiritual Life, etc." Lesser known among these are Furman's Student Success Coordinators (SSC), Nicky Wallace and Sarah Tobin, who offer non-clinical guidance and assist in forming success plans for students. By a referral from Boyd, a student may be eligible to meet with an SSC, who can, according to Tobin, manage their concerns "through a variety of non-clinical interventions, referrals, and follow-up services in collaboration with other University departments or individuals, community agencies, parents or guardians, and stakeholders in the student's success."
Alternatively, for those in need of clinical help, Furman’s primary mental health resources reside within the Counseling Center. Many students are unaware that the Counseling Center houses more resources than just individual counseling sessions. The Counseling Center organizes their resources under a stepped-care model, which classifies them based on the intensity and autonomy of their care.
For low-intensity resources, the Counseling Center offers self-help and online programs, the most extensive of which is Therapy Assistance Online (TAO). The Furman website states that TAO “combines online and mobile educational modules and practice tools with short phone conversations or video conferences from a therapist.” Additionally, for navigating a particular mental health issue, the Counseling Center offers and co-sponsors a number of groups and workshops and posts a list of those available each semester. Of a higher intensity are individual counseling sessions with one of Furman’s licensed counselors. For some concerns, like an immediate stressor or decision, students may only need a single session, but the Counseling Center allows you to schedule a series of sessions with a counselor in the case of a more “intense episode or crisis.” In one of these meetings, a counselor may also recommend including medication in a student’s treatment plan, referring them to one of our contracted psychiatrists for a consultation.
If a student and counselor agree, however, that a longer-term or more-intensive treatment is necessary, the Counseling Center will refer the student to an off-campus provider. Whether by referral or because a student feels they would find better success with an off-campus provider, the Counseling Center has multiple resources to help students find these providers. A student can contact Administrative Assistant Bev Rogers (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions about low-cost local referrals, or per the suggestion of the Furman website, use Psychology Today, a database with records of mental health providers in the area. However, if a student finds themselves in a crisis and is in need of immediate care, they are advised to call the Counseling Center during business hours at 864-294-3031. During weekends, holidays, and after hours, they should call the Furman Counseling Center Crisis Line, which uses the same number with the extension of #3, or University Police at 864-294-2111.
A student experiencing a severe mental health crisis may worry that taking time away from the classroom or from campus would harm their academic progress. However, when a struggling student reaches out to an RA, a Peer Mentor, a professor, a counselor, or the Academic Dean’s office itself, this information is relayed to both Tracy Carner and Stephanie Boyd, who together co-chair the Student Intervention Team (SIT). Composed of Carner, Boyd, Student Success Coordinators, and other representatives from Student Life and Academic Affairs, the SIT creates a success plan for students struggling to attend class or who need time away from class or campus and helps to execute this plan. The team ensures that there is someone who is in consistent communication with these students to assess their needs; someone who will talk to professors to create an academic plan that accounts for time in recovery; and someone that helps manage other areas of the student’s life that need to be tended to while they focus on their health and wellbeing.
Although there are a number of additional resources, these are the resources most relevant to mental health and student success at Furman. Because this network of resources is extensive, Associate VP for Student Life Cassidy stresses that students who are unsure which resource will be to their greatest benefit can always email email@example.com, contact Stephanie Boyd, or talk to anyone in the Office of Student Life: “No matter the circumstance, students can always come to the Student Life office and get connected to the appropriate support resource on campus.”