At the beginning of the academic year, my office was moved into the counseling center. The Campus Counseling Center is within the department I work in, so I am fully aware of the situations that arise throughout the semester. The highs, the lows, and the times when things get a little cray for students (usually around mid-terms and finals).
Part of my job is helping students know what their rights and responsibilities are, guiding them through policies, procedures, grievance processes, and advocating for their needs. So, students often wander into my office with questions, concerns, and just to chat. One day, while our front desk worker was on their lunch break (who usually handles the walk-ins) a student wandered into my office, took a seat, and asked: “So, how does this work?”
I was a bit perplexed, and asked what his problem was assuming that it was a possible grievance issue. About two minutes in, I realized his problems were a bit more severe and out of my range of expertise.
I awkwardly threw my hands in the air: “Oh, I’m not…I don’t…I mean, I’m a great listener, but…Oh God!” I collected myself and explained, “What I’m trying to say is I am not a licensed counselor.”
I promptly set up an appointment with someone that was much more qualified to assist. This moment also prompted me to try and label my office a bit more clearer.
This also made me realize that I am on the front lines now. At any moment a crisis could walk through the doors of the counseling center, and I may be the only one around to handle it. Counselors gave me some advice and how to handle walk-ins that seemed distressed and in full freak-out mode. I kept telling myself that I am GREAT in a crisis.
Some time later, the front desk person had the day off. The door opened, and I poked my head out of my office to see how I could assist the student.
Student: I need to see E (counselor) right away!
Me: She’s with a client right now, but let’s take a look at when she’s available next. You need to see her right away you said?
Student: Yes, I called her earlier and she said to come right down.
The student was red in the face, seemed out of breath. This is distress…This is it; This is happening right now, I thought. I am GREAT in a crisis! Let’s do this!
Me: (Pause with a look of concern right before blurting out) Are you suicidal?
Things took a turn, the student is now donning a very puzzled somewhat disgusted look.
Student: Um…no…I just need to drop off these scantrons. E said she needed them today, so I ran down as fast as I could, so she would have them in time.
Me: Oh…well uhhh, why don’t you just take a seat, and she should be done with her client in about ten minutes or so…Aaaaand I’ve made things very awkward now, so I’m just gonna go back into my office…I’m just…gonna go…
I promptly returned to my office, slumped in my chair, and gave myself a nice hearty face-palm.
I am GREAT in a crisis…or someday will be…this day was just not my moment to shine.