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Q&A: Miriam Hill

Miriam Hill, director of counseling services

Bethel offers on-campus counseling services for community members to process through life’s demands and tough situations—or simply to develop strategies for success. We talked with Miriam Hill, Ph.D., LMFT, director of counseling services at Bethel, about the resources available on campus and how to go about getting help or supporting a loved one who may be struggling. Here’s what she had to say:

What does a typical day look like as director of counseling services?

My typical day includes providing counseling for Bethel students; training and supervising our practicum interns; consulting with staff and faculty about how to support students facing relational, emotional, or mental health challenges; and sometimes doing student or staff training on psychoeducational topics. What I love most about my job is working with students who are eager to understand themselves and others better, and work through their mental and emotional obstacles. It’s a terrible thing to have your whole adult life before you and feel that all you can see are obstacles and problems. I love seeing students freed up so they can pursue their God-given passions and purpose as world-changers.

What counseling services or other resources are available to Bethel students, and where should a student (or parent) start if they'd like to make use of them?

We offer individual counseling as well as couple (dating, premarital, and marital) counseling, family counseling (with parents or siblings if invited by the student), and relationship counseling (for example, a set of suitemates who are having conflict).

Parents and other family members cannot schedule a counseling appointment for a student. The student needs to schedule an appointment by coming to the front desk of Health Services and Counseling Services in Townhouse H or by calling 651.635.8540. The first session will give the student an opportunity to meet with one of our counselors so the counselor can get to know the student and hear about the concerns they have.

Currently, College of Arts & Sciences (traditional undergraduate) students have unlimited free counseling services. Bethel Seminary, College of Adult & Professional Studies (adult undergraduate), and Graduate School students receive up to six free sessions per semester.

What should we know about students today? Are there any particular challenges that they face?

Students in every generation have dealt with significant stressors—the normal college stressors of tough academic work, learning to manage time, and navigating residence life and peer relationships. But today’s university students are navigating an unprecedented volume of information and digital and social media stimuli. This may be contributing to increasing reports of anxiety—it’s the number one issue on college campuses.

A hopeful difference that sets today’s cohort of students apart is their willingness to seek help when they are struggling. The stigma associated with mental health counseling is decreasing, and students are increasingly looking at counseling as a valuable resource to help them heal and grow so they can live as fully as possible. They don’t want to put up with distress they could do something about, and they see counseling as having the potential to boost their performance and help them get on target with their life goals.

Are there any misconceptions surrounding mental illness of which we should be aware?

Misconceptions include the belief that time itself will take care of problems such as depression or panic attacks. There’s also the alternative belief that students can’t do anything about their mental health struggle, that “it is what it is.” The reality is that without help, mental health symptoms can worsen and become harder to treat. The reality is also that there are many interventions that can help students significantly reduce the symptoms interfering with their day-to-day lives and can sometimes help them shake loose of the problem altogether.

Another misconception is that mental health counseling is not compatible with seeking God for healing and wholeness. In our counseling, we seek to help students address those things in their lives that are keeping them from experiencing God’s healing and living fully in God’s truth and transforming power. Counseling can help open the door to a student having a deeper relationship with God and experiencing more of God’s redemption in the different parts of their lives.

Counseling at Bethel is about getting to know yourself, developing tools and strategies to function and relate optimally, and leaving behind old patterns that keep you from reaching your potential. The students who pursue help and counseling are students who graduate from Bethel prepared to excel in work and relationships and equipped to thrive when they face difficulties as well as exciting opportunities.

Are there any specific behaviors or warning signs that friends and family members can look for that might signal a larger issue that a student is facing?

A few indicators that your student or friend might benefit from a conversation from one of our counselors include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or depression
  • Increased irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or harming someone else
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Excessive worry
  • Panic attacks
  • Not keeping up with academics or self-care
  • Not making it to class
  • Difficulty keeping good boundaries in relationships

If a friend or family member suspects that a student is facing mental health issues or may need to talk to someone about a problem they are facing, what are some respectful and healthy ways to approach that topic and support their student?

Part of growing up and moving away to college is learning to make good decisions and reach out for help when appropriate. A loved one’s role is as a coach or consultant who can help the student develop confidence in doing this.

So listen empathetically and non-judgmentally, let your student know that you support them, and remind them of the support they have at Bethel (including counseling services). Doing more listening than advice-giving can be tough when you see your student struggling, but it will communicate respect and confidence in them, as well as communicate that they need to take responsibility for getting support.

If you are concerned about safety issues or need someone to reach out to your student, you can contact the Office of Security and Safety or the Office of Student Life.

Is counseling information confidential? What responsibility do coaches and professors have to report alarming behavior in students, and what information can counselors share with campus staff, faculty, or students’ family members?

Counseling Services is a confidential resource on campus, so for students 18 years old and older, counseling is confidential and anonymous. This means that we cannot share with a family member or other university employees any information students share in-session, nor can we confirm if they have even come for counseling or scheduled an appointment (unless a “Release of Information” form is signed by the student or the situation meets Minnesota state criteria for exceptions to confidentiality).

As counselors, we do not reach out to students who haven’t been seen for counseling. This is a role that other student life staff can take if a professor, staff person, coach, or family member notifies the Office of Student Life of a concern that requires follow-up. Professors, coaches, and student life staff often refer students for counseling services, and that is when we come alongside the student and help them get on a solid path to growth and wholeness.

The Office of Counseling Services is located in Townhouse H. Find out more about Counseling Services at Bethel. 

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