New Boe House initiative brings therapy online
A new Boe House Counseling Center seminar series called “Re-Imagining Boe House” aims to give students the tools to better manage their mental health during the pandemic and beyond.
When students had to leave campus last year to finish the spring semester remotely due to the pandemic, the services offered through Boe House became limited because Counseling Center staff legally couldn’t provide services to those outside of Minnesota. “We were not allowed to provide therapy services to students not located within Minnesota — that was a lot of our client base! So we needed to think outside the box to figure out how to continue to be helpful and attend to mental health issues without actively doing therapy with them,” says Anne Breckbill, a Boe House counselor and adjunct instructor in education.
That’s when the idea for Re-Imagining Boe House was born, and it came to fruition this year.
“We started to think about what we could do to be available in a therapeutic way without doing actual therapy, and one of the things that students have been talking a lot about is that psychoeducation can be really helpful,” Breckbill says. “So we decided to do this Boe House reimagining series — reimagining how we would do therapeutic work and work with mental health issues even though we’re at a distance.”
Despite students being on campus, all of these services are provided digitally. Students can simply log in and use the same Zoom link for each session, or they can watch sessions that have been archived.
During Interim the series ran five days a week, with a weekly three-day repeating mini-series dedicated to anxiety. “We have found that anxiety is the predominant sort of presenting thing, especially during the pandemic; everybody, even people who weren’t anxious, have developed some anxieties, often because it’s just such a weird, weird time,” Breckbill says.
Boe House decided to continue the seminar this semester because students requested it. “We got good feedback and realized the seminar series was reaching some students who were not already connected to Boe House,” Breckbill explains. It provides an accessible way for students to partake in individual therapy to develop the skills and strategies that help overcome mental health challenges. All students enrolled at St. Olaf are able to attend regardless of physical location or prior connection with Boe House.
“One of the things that this is hopefully doing is giving more touch points throughout the semester where you can interact with Boe House, even though you can’t see somebody weekly,” Breckbill says. Anne Breckbill, a Boe House counselor and adjunct instructor in education.
One of the things that this is hopefully doing is giving more touch points throughout the semester where you can interact with Boe House, even though you can’t see somebody weekly.Boe House Counselor Anne Breckbill
Another benefit of the seminar is that it’s tailored based on pressing needs at a given time. For instance, Breckbill is doing a seminar on “grief and loss around COVID-19 — not of a person dying, but of what it has cost us.” That seminar will take place closer to the end of the year because, she notes, end-of-year traditions will be different and it’s important to understand “how grief of non-death experiences play into our psyche.”
The seminars have been well attended and there’s definitely been a positive effect from the psychoeducational approach. They’re not just about managing anxious thoughts, Breckbill says, but allow students to dive deeper and pose questions such as: Where anxiety comes from? What does it mean to you? This deeper therapeutic work adds more of a “full spectrum kind of impact,” Breckbill explains.
As a reminder, these virtual psycho-educational seminars are offered every Monday and Thursday from 4:15-5:15 p.m. Monday seminars feature a repeating two-part series on managing anxiety. Thursday seminars cover a variety of topics pertaining to mental health, personal development, self-care, relationships, and navigating life during a pandemic.
Seminar descriptions and schedule are listed here. If you are unable to attend, every session is video archived.