Counseling and Wellness Center’s teletherapy and programs will help Norwich students manage semester’s stresses

Although campus is crackling to life with each wave of student arrivals, coronavirus stress may be muting the new-school-year excitement. News outlets of all stripes show the pandemic’s national case count, and headlines, stubbornly remain. Nobody can see the end yet. 

Norwich’s Counseling and Wellness Center stands ready to help. The center has added two counselors — bringing its staff to eight and has introduced teletherapy. Anyone on campus or in the 50 U.S. states will be able to phone in for help. Also, remote students in 36 states will be able to arrange therapy over video.

(State licensure laws currently will not allow for video telehealth between Vermont and Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia.)

Norwich University President Mark C. Anarumo has touted the Counseling and Wellness Center as a resource and its services as an institutional priority.

Counseling and Wellness Director Nicole Krotinger said the teletherapy available to all students on campus (the counseling center will have space in its Kreitzberg Library office that students can schedule and use for their sessions) or off, will be vital for serving student needs, given expected near-constant demand, especially from freshmen. Because of Vermont Health Department-mandated reduced building capacity and already limited space, the center won’t be able to accommodate walk-ins, she said.

“That’s going to be the hardest thing,” she said. “All the counselors want to see their people in person … it’s not ideal.” 

The center also offers physically distanced in-person crisis services (schedulable by phone) to complement its 24-7 crisis telephone hotline. 

The center also hopes to add outdoor programs — yoga and meditation — during the warm weather and livestream physically distanced indoor sessions when temperatures drop. Krotinger said the center would also like to eventually bring therapy dogs back to campus.

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Norwich University community members participated in a Counseling and Wellness Center yoga session in October 2019. To comply with coronavirus-related health protocols, the center hopes to hold physically distanced yoga sessions outside during warm weather and inside when the weather turns cold. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

Krotinger said the center will hold orientation meetings as the semester starts to alert students, especially freshmen, to its confidential, judgment-free help. New President Mark C. Anarumo has touted the center as a resource and its services as an institutional priority.

“It’s critically important,” Anarumo said in an interview. “It’s about student success and making sure they can be successful academically, physically, spiritually, mentally.”

Remote therapy access will add to the student experience, Anarumo added, ensuring that students who weren’t invited back to campus for the fall because of reduced residential living capacity on campus can stay healthy and happy.

RELATED: Mindfulness exercises to ease stress

Krotinger, a licensed clinical mental health counselor with a Master of Counseling degree, said the center also aims to hold weekly wellness discussions on topics including nutrition, proper sleep, and virtual group sessions on grief, body image and rook support.

Administrative Assistant Krista Day said the center also hopes to enable students to send one another wellness care packages, maybe stocked with self-care-promoting items — coloring books, games, stickers, tea, essential oils, sleep masks — through intercampus or postal mail.

“(Package senders) will be able to feel like they’re connecting in a way,” Day said.

An app to tap

Besides counseling and programming, the Counseling and Wellness Center offers WellTrack, an interactive self-therapy app that lets users check in on their mood to reduce stress and ease anxiety and depression. Students, faculty and staff can all use WellTrack, which is available for free from the Apple App and Google Play stores or from Norwich’s single sign-on dashboard. (The app’s offerings derive from University of New Brunswick psychology professor Darren Piercey’s computerized cognitive behavior therapy research.)

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The Rev. William Wick, who will give an Aug. 26 video address on how to best survive the Fall 2020 semester, will also counsel students this semester, complementing the Counseling and Wellness Center. (Photo by Mark Coller.)

Beyond the center and WellTrack app, the Rev. William Wick in Norwich’s Chaplain’s Office will also counsel students. In the coming days, he’ll give a video address on how to best survive the Fall 2020 semester.

Data show demand for the Counseling and Wellness Center climbing. From 2018-19 to 2019-20, clients seen jumped 17.3 percent to 475 from 405 and appointments jumped 7.2 percent to 2,029 from 1,910. The added personnel and counseling services will matter with anxiety and emotions high.

A Dartmouth College study published in June in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that students in the winter 2020 term, when the coronavirus pandemic’s fallout began, were more anxious and depressed than similar cohorts in previous years, partly because of reduced physical activity and inability to travel for visits. 

However, as USA Today reported this month, an American College Health Association survey of 18,000 college students, published July 9 by the Healthy Minds Network, found that although college students are reporting lower levels of psychological well-being postpandemic relative than a year earlier, they also reported higher levels of resilience.

Collective spirit

Amplifying Anarumo’s call for togetherness — the “Norwich together, Norwich forever” — motto, the Counseling and Wellness Center is encouraging the students to practice collective empathy and kindness.

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The WellTrack app, free to use for all in the Norwich University community, can help track moods and manage stress. (Photo by Matthew Crowley.)

“‘We’re all in this together’ is a good message, (as is) ‘Be good to each other, be kind to each other,’” Krotinger said. “Really be a good listener when people are talking to you; make eye contact, tune in, be as connected as you can in this world that is so disconnected.”

Norwich Counselor Kate Morris, like Krotinger, said the Norwich community can draw as much energy from the “I Will Try” motto as from “Norwich Together, Norwich Forever.”

“I wonder if it might be helpful to think … maybe, for example, I will try to have a good attitude about this … odd though it undoubtedly is,” she wrote. “Maybe I will try to find community more intentionally than I would have prepandemic. Maybe I will try to trust that I've got what it takes to be successful here, or to trust that my daughter or son does. Maybe I will try, simply, to be kind to myself and others. I think if we can commit to trying — and then to trying again after we have failed — we will be more successful and happier along the way.

“It’s going to be different, and it may be difficult,” Morris added, reflecting on the new semester. “Students have a tremendous amount of support at Norwich, in their peers, student leaders, professors, administrators and student services staff, including academic tutors and mental health counselors. Utilizing this support is not weak, it is human.”

Get help

  • Students in life-threatening situations should call 911.
  • Students in nonlife-threatening situations can call the Counseling and Wellness Center from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at (802) 485-2134. 
  • Weekdays after 4:30 p.m. and on weekends and holidays, students can call the Mental Health Crisis Line: (802) 793-3093. 
  • To contact the Rev. William Wick, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (802) 485-2128.

EXPLORE:

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Norwich University Perspectives Project: COVID-19

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