University counseling revamped

The counseling center provides new hires and expanded services this year


Students can now opt to meet in-person at the University Counseling Center. Photo by Stefani Chiguluri, ’24.

Janae Darby

In the wake of COVID-19, the lives and academic careers of many students at Washington and Lee have been shaken, making the need for counseling more apparent than ever. 

To meet this increased need, University Counseling at Washington and Lee expanded its counseling resources to be more accessible and inclusive. The counseling center now offers expanded hours for masked in-person visits, new staff, and a program called “Let’s Talk” in hopes of broadening student outreach.     

Everyone needs help at some point,” Counselor Sharron Arbuthnot said. “Even the most beautiful, successful, most ‘put together’ people have struggles.”   

New Hires    

This year, there are four new hires at the counseling center, Dave Salge, Jade Westbrook, Sharron Arbuthnot and Dr. Jeff Rutter. 

Salge joined the team this summer and hopes to utilize his experiences working with first-generation, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC and immigrant students to help create a more inclusive and empathetic counseling environment for students of marginalized groups. 

Salge also hopes to help students navigate setbacks that come with growth. 

“Change is not always a linear process,” he said. 

Westbrook joined the University Counseling Center in the fall. She specializes in anxiety, depression, interpersonal conflict and diversity and inclusion issues. 

Westbrook encourages students to use the counseling center instead of ignoring their struggles. 

“Waiting to process the trauma until you have a free moment is not a solution,” she said. “It will just keep building until you deal with it.” 

Westbrook primarily uses the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy framework in her sessions, which builds mindfulness strategies to help clients commit to behavior changes. 

Rutter, a licensed clinical psychologist, will take on the role of the new director of the department. 

Let’s Talk

The newly-launched “Let’s Talk” program offers appointments  on a first-come, first-serve basis, where students can drop-in for 15-20 minute conversations. These sessions aim to take away the stress and structure that comes with formal therapy. 

These informal sessions allow more students to capitalize on the benefits of seeking help. 

“Counseling is confidential, and talking to someone helps you feel less alone,” said Janet Boller, who has been a counselor with the university since 2010. 

For these sessions, students do not need to schedule a formal appointment or fill out any paperwork. Starting next week, the service will be offered at various locations around campus.

Expanded Hours

The counseling center hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, with a short recess from noon to 1 p.m. for lunch. 

With more hours, the counseling center can cut down on long waitlists and open more slots for drop-in appointments. 

“I wish students recognized that this is the only time that counseling services will be free,” Westbrook said.

“They should take advantage of the opportunity while they can,” she said.