Peer counseling program aims to give listening ear to students in need


FHSU Health and Wellness Services launched a peer counseling service at the beginning of February. 

“Our main goal for the peer counseling program is to serve students who may not be ready or are hesitant to start traditional therapy,” Case Manager for Health and Wellness Services Sadie Spurlock said.  “Maybe they just want someone to vent to or feel stuck in a problem and want someone to talk to.”

Spurlock describes this program as more of a “listening service” rather than therapy or counseling. 

“First and foremost we train students to be good listeners,” Spurlock said. “Peer counselors are undergraduate psychology students so it’s more on a friend or peer-level and can be less intimidating.”

The psychology department has been instrumental in the development of the program, providing the students as peer counselors. 

“The chair of the psychology department, Dr. Jairam, reached out to Gina Smith, our director last year and asked if we could place three undergraduate students for a practicum experience this spring,” Spurlock said. “So when she got the request, we immediately thought of the desire we had to start the Peer Counseling program, and we offered it as a suggestion to him, and the timing worked out perfectly.”

This service comes as part of a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant that Health and Wellness Services received two years ago. The grant is good for three years, with the funding ending Jan. 1, 2023. 

As part of the grant recommendations, SAMHSA wants grant recipients to implement programs that will outlive the grant. Last year, Health and Wellness Services launched the TIger Thrive Blackboard modules to offer online mental health resources. This year, the department has focused on implementing the peer counseling program.

“As part of the grant, we started researching non-traditional ways of approaching mental health and looking at ways other universities have provided mental health services and decided to try a peer counseling service,” Spurlock said.

If students are interested in a peer counseling session, call Health and Wellness at 785-628-4401. Students will complete intake paperwork to make sure they are placed with the appropriate counselor. 

“We really want students to take advantage of this and try the program out,” Spurlock said. “These resources are here for you, so take advantage of them. We’re here to help.”

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