Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Dallas College provides mental health resources

Ivy Nguyen

Counseling and Psychological Services provide free one-on-one counseling for Dallas College students who are currently enrolled in classes and are at least 18 years old.

“There’s no issue that’s too small to talk about it because we all need support,” Rachel Estrada, a counselor at Richland Campus, said. CAPS counselors approach all issues, big or small, seriously. Rhonda Dalrymple, a counselor at Brookhaven Campus, said: “Please know that every concern that a student may present with, we do take seriously, and we offer respect, understanding and safe, supportive space to work through these concerns.”

CAPS counselors are licensed professionals, and several of them own or used to own private practices. “Our counselors are all licensed and qualified professionals,” Dalrymple said. “We are equipped to support our students on their journey through overcoming these challenges.”

While therapy sessions in the community can be costly, the services provided at Dallas College are free for all Dallas College students. Karen Cutill, a counselor at Richland Campus said, “Some of our colleagues in the community, they may without insurance, be up to $200 an hour. So we are very much one of the best deals in town.”

Many students may only consider counseling when their life situation becomes grave. However, Cutill said stress management and prevention are key to maintaining mental health. “We would like it if we could reach everybody before their mental health deteriorates,” Cutill said. “I believe we can start today and resolve our issues or solve some of our problems or most of our problems by starting today and moving forward in the future.”

The stigma surrounding mental health can make it difficult for some students to seek counseling. Cutill said, “There is a lot of stigma in our culture and in most cultures, it can be even worse. So we do work very hard in our outreaches when we talk to people.” Still, students are encouraged to reach out if they need counseling.

Dalrymple said,  “We hope that students take that first step to work through the stigma that exists about therapy and experience that it can hopefully provide them.”

It may be difficult to open up at first, but Estrada said counseling does not have to be about something serious or strictly about struggles. “We’re just talking, and you can make the first session as long as you want, and you can divulge information if you want to or not,” Estrada said. “A lot of my students that come in, talk about academics, time management, transitions from whatever they were doing before college. So it’s just a matter of learning how to organize things, dealing with change [and] dealing with relationship issues.”

By law, clinical therapists are required to keep all information revealed in sessions confidential. Dalia Blell, a counselor at North Lake Campus, said: “We’re HIPAA-compliant. We don’t release any information to anyone unless the student has given us written permission to do so.”

If a student is experiencing a crisis, they may walk into any of the counseling centers at Dallas College to receive immediate assistance. Otherwise, students are encouraged to schedule appointments with counselors via the Navigate app. Students can also email or call their campus care center, where they will be helped and connected to a counselor.

There are at least two counselors at each campus, but students are not limited to those counselors. Estrada said each counselor offers something different, and it is important students find one who suits their needs and preferences. Estrada said: “There should be a fit. There should be a feeling that you feel comfortable and that you’d be open to trusting this person.” It is suggested students visit the Meet the Counselors page on Dallas College’s website to find contact information, navigate availability and see descriptions of the different specialties or qualities each counselor provides. “Some students may want to see a female or a male or maybe a counselor that speaks a certain language,” Neff said. “Or maybe they’re seeking someone that is LGBTQIA+ friendly.”

There is a counselor for every need. “I’m a military-connected specialist. That doesn’t mean that’s all I see. I see all students,” Cutill said. “I’m a cognitive behavioral therapist, and I do solution-focused, relatively direct therapy.” Blell said: “I am an EMDR therapist, which is one of the most evidence-based therapies for PTSD and trauma, anxiety, [and] depression. I’m a psychotherapeutic yoga clinician. So that means I integrate yoga, breath work and mindfulness into my treatment plan.”

If a student is unsatisfied after a meeting with a counselor, they can still explore other options. Cutill said, “If a student doesn’t feel comfortable after seeing a counselor, a student can go to any counselor in the college. So we’re not limited.”

Outside of counseling services, CAPS counselors can connect students with campus resources such as accessibility services for students with medical or psychological conditions on file, as well as community resources such as counselor referrals after graduation or primary care physicians for medication.

CAPS is supported under the umbrella of the Student Care Network at Dallas College, which also includes Student Care Coordination, Basic Needs & Community Connections, and Health Services. Neff said: “Now that we’re a Student Care Network, we want students to feel connected and also get what they need. Because once your basic needs aren’t met, it’s really hard to be able to focus and study in your college classes.”

Dallas College also provides suicide prevention training programs, such as the AS+K Suicide Gatekeeper Training and Mental Health First Aid Training, to educate on how to spot signs of suicide, intervene safely and connect the person to care. Cutill said, “The Mental Health First Aid is skills that you will take with you for the rest of your life. And I pretty well believe most people will end up saving a life through that training.”

Students can talk to a counselor if they are interested in the counseling field. Neff said, “If anyone is interested in the field of psychology, so you’ve thought about being a counselor or you thought about being a psychologist or a psychiatrist, come talk to us.”

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