Student Voice


March 22, 2023


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Pet therapy, other programs relieve student stress

October 31, 2013

Student Health and Counseling Services provide events and activities that manage the stress of college life.

These events and programs include Pet Therapy, Wellcheck, Wellness Challenge, the Health Fair and the De-stress Fest held the week before spring finals.

Pet therapy helps relieve stress with therapy certified dogs on the first Friday of every month in the Career Resource Room in Hagestad Hall. The dogs are all certified in pet therapy as well as their trainers, who can be community members or even faculty and staff, who volunteer to come to campus with their dogs for about an hour.

This is the second year the University has had the pet therapy program, which started out with one dog, but has grown to usually having four dogs.

Jennifer Elsesser, intake counselor for student health and counseling services, said that the dogs help the students cope with missing family and pets, or if students are struggling with loneliness or homesickness.

“Pets are easier to connect with, people feel more accepted around a dog whereas with people it is a little harder to read. Dogs are very simple, dogs give you that unconditional positive regard that sometimes people don’t always give. So when students interact with a dog it creates a connection that makes you feel loved and appreciated,” Elsesser said.

Director of Student Health and Counseling Services Alice Reilly-Myklebust, said that with the semester no longer new and exciting, it is important to maintain getting a good night’s sleep, eating regular healthy meals, and managing physical activity to stay balanced and feel energized to perform well academically and not be as stressed in your daily life.

Aside from the weekly events and programs offered, as well as regular counseling, there are also counseling groups such as College Readiness and Life Skills Group, Interpersonal Process Group, Healing from Loss, “Empowered by my disability” (started by a student last year), and Art Therapy Group.

All of these groups meet once a week and all help in different ways, but the difference is being part of a group and being around people who may be struggling with similar issues.

With on-campus students having the luxury of having these options close by, off-campus students have to schedule time into their day to eat, taking time out of their day to exercise, read a book, write in a journal, draw, or whatever helps to unwind and take a step back from those stressful factors that are affecting their lives.

“The goal is for students to find that thing or things that work for them to pull them out of their ‘dark days,’” Elsesser said. “Our goal is to offer as many things as we can that are really beneficial for students and the campus community.”

All of these programs are free to students, as well as faculty and staff. It is highly encouraged by the Student Health and Counseling Services to attend a counseling session or to go to a weekly event even for an hour. Both Elsesser and Reilly-Myklebust encourage students to go with friends and to not be scared to try new things or talk to someone about problems balancing college life.

“We want students to be physically and mentally healthy, so that they can be successful academically, but also in their personal and professional life. We want students to get through, graduate and find a job they want and have healthy relationships, that is really our overall goal,” Reilly-Myklebust said.

For more information about events and programs hosted by Student Health and Counseling Services, or to schedule an appointment with a counselor, visit them from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., on Monday through Friday, in room 211 in Hagestad Hall, or contact them at 715-425-3293 or