"Students Are Really Resilient"
Long before the coronavirus pandemic significantly altered our approach to daily living, the University of Illinois Counseling Center came up with an idea for more effectively connecting students to its services: individual counselors would be embedded in any campus unit requesting them.
Months before the pandemic made the campus a ghost town, the College of Applied Health Sciences requested an embedded counselor. Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Kim Peters successfully applied, joining AHS in August as students returned to campus for the first time since March.
In her three-and-a-half months with AHS, Kim understatedly says she has been “very busy,” and credits the advising staff with keeping her so. “AHS is fantastic as far as working me into the system and letting students know I’m here,” she said. “I’m so grateful.”
Her primary goal is to meet with students and assess their mental health needs, and refer them to the counseling center resources for brief individual counseling, group counseling, workshops, or drop-in services. If students need a higher level of care or longer treatment, they are referred to community resources. Telehealth has been a blessing during the pandemic, as she has worked with students located from Cook County to rural southern Illinois. She said it’s sometimes difficult to convince students to reach out to community providers, but is generally pleased with how students have responded.
“They’ve been managing it really well, I have to give them credit,” she said. “I think for the most part, students are really resilient.”
In 20-plus years of practice, Kim has helped people cope with transitions, grief, depression, anxiety, and more in community mental health facilities, hospitals, and public schools, and currently has a private practice in Forsyth in addition to her U of I position. Her bachelor’s degree and master’s in human development counseling are from the University of Illinois at Springfield. A lifelong resident of Decatur, Kim has three children who are currently enrolled in or have recently completed college, so working with U of I students is well within her comfort zone.
Like the students with whom she is working, she is looking forward to a post-pandemic world when students will be able to drop by her office in Huff Hall. And she hopes to stay with AHS for long, long time.