Q&A with Rosemary Simmons

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How has work in the Counseling Center changed since remote operations began at UW Bothell and what changes have you seen throughout the University regarding mental health response? Dr. Rosemary Simmons, director of Counseling, Health and Wellness, answers a few questions from Maria Lamarca Anderson, UW Bothell’s director of communications.

Q. What would you normally be doing now and where? 

A. The Counseling Center staff would normally be in the lower level of Founders Hall providing mental health counseling in person to students. In addition to providing counseling, we would be meeting with students through classroom presentations, as guest speakers at student clubs and collaborating with other student-facing departments across campus to provide events and opportunities on overall emotional well-being. 

Q. What are you working on at this time? 

A. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The Health and Wellness Resource Center and our community partner Evergreen Health sponsored the third annual Wellness Fest on May 4 and 5. The focus on May 4 was on mental health and well-being. Highlights included student and faculty presentations from the School of Nursing & Health Studies, School of STEM and School of Educational Studies. The final presentation was a healing circle sponsored by the Associated Students of University of Washington Bothell, the Counseling Center and the Student Diversity Center. 

The combination of synchronous events and asynchronous events allowed students to participate at a time that is best for them. 

I invite everyone to check out the great asynchronous presentations that remain on line all this month. 

Q. What adjustments have you made to fulfill your work responsibilities? 

A. Many challenges in our lives provide a moment to create new opportunities. Some of the positives that have occurred this past year include a decrease in students canceling or not attending counseling appointments they scheduled. Students can join their HIPAA-compliant Zoom counseling session from the ease of their homes. Students have shared they don’t get stuck in traffic or have a delayed bus get them to campus too late for their appointment. If they oversleep, they can log on to their computer in five minutes. They can more easily transition from class or work to their counseling sessions. 

It has been wonderful to see students being able to fully participate in every counseling session they schedule. 

The second wonderful opportunity is seeing how others outside of the Counseling Center have taken ownership of enhancing the mental health of students. Faculty especially have been on the forefront of seeing when a student’s mental well-being is shifting or other life transitions are taxing them. 

In addition to making referrals for counseling, many faculty are incorporating mental health into the classroom. Just a few examples include Dr. Bryan White who designed a new class for this year, BBIO 293 Special Topics Biology: Science of Well-Being. I’ve also had the honor of working with Drs. Ko Niitsu, Hoa Appel and Bryan White on their Resilience through Mindfulness grant which provides UW Bothell students the option of participating in a weekly mindfulness Zoom class with Ko or using a mindfulness phone app with coaching from Hoa and Bryan. Just this week the First Year & Pre-Major faculty table talk series featured Dr. Stuart Slavin, a senior scholar on well-being, as a guest speaker on Student Mindsets and the Experience of College. 

Finally, I appreciate the workshops offered throughout the year by Organizational Excellence & Human Resources that focus on staff and faculty mental health and connection. The Counseling Center staff is very aware that we all need to attend to our own personal well-being to maintain the energy, focus and thoughtfulness needed to support others. We hope the opportunities for staff and faculty well-being offered this year continue as we transition back to campus. 

Q. What are you doing to care for yourself or for others? 

A. Counseling Center staff members are frequently checking in with each other to see how we are all doing, offer support, and share good news and things we are grateful for. One of our newest staff members, Dr. Ric Torres who joined us September, started Foto Friday where he and other staff share pictures of places they’ve been. The sharing of photos from all of our prior trips or weekend walks has helped us stay connected with the beauty of this world to counterbalance the painful news from around the world this past year.


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Maria Lamarca Anderson
Director of Communications
mariala@uw.edu
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