“Robust training and oversight [are] key,” said Hamilton Counseling Center Director David Walden as he described the College’s peer counselor program in a recent Wall Street Journal article.
“With Therapists in Short Supply, College Students Counsel Each Other,” published on Feb. 12, provided an in-depth look into how Hamilton’s peer counselor program works and how peer counselors “provide a supportive ear and not actual therapy [and] relieve some of the demand on the licensed therapists.”
Several students were interviewed for the article, including peer counselors and those who benefited from their service. Those considering a career in counseling commented on the benefits of the experience in evaluating their future plans. Students wrestling with issues expressed gratitude for the confidential conversations that included discussions of post-graduate anxiety and the challenges of balancing academic and athletic demands.
According to Walden, peer counselors are taught how to spot risk and notify clinical staff if a student is having suicidal thoughts or other severe mental health issues. Licensed therapists then take over. Peer counselors aren’t paid but can receive course credits for their participation in the program. There are currently about a dozen counselors.