W&L counseling expands services


Simona Radeva

The Washington and Lee counseling center held an open house last Tuesday to broadcast their new services.

Simona Radeva, Staff Writer

The Washington and Lee Counseling Center hosted its second-ever open house on Sept. 20, where students could enjoy food and refreshments and meet the current staff. 

“We really just want to open our doors,” said Dave Salge, a resident in counseling who joined the center last year and is an assigned resource to the athletic community, but also the campus at large.

Students could meet Salge and the rest of the staff during a scavenger hunt designed to break the ice and introduce the different therapy options available at the Counseling Center.

“Sometimes there’s stigma or bias around the counseling experience, so we want to try to break down those walls,” said Salge. 

Counselors are working to “be approachable to students [and] answer questions,” Salge explained. He said the Counseling Center has been actively trying to reach students from all corners of campus. 

The current staff includes both full-time and part-time counselors and psychologists, a nurse practitioner and a peer-recovery support specialist trained in helping students battle substance abuse issues. Another addition this year is the campus advocate position, held by Dr. Janet Boller, who will provide support for students going through Title IX processes.

“You never know what is going to resonate with a student or make a connection,” said Counseling Center Director Jeff Rutter. “You have to do everything you can to be more visible and more relatable.”

For a lot of students, counseling was not available or accessible before college for a multitude of reasons including financial hurdles, stigma and shame. 

“I didn’t really have access to any counseling before coming to W&L, for financial reasons and just stigma around it as far as family members go,” said Jessica Pachuca, ’25. “But it’s important to have it here so people have access to that, and also because college is hard, and you’re developing your feelings.”

Jade Westbrook, a resident in counseling at the center, said a lot of students don’t know the center’s staff or how to ask for help. Westbrook took it upon herself to organize this year and last year’s open house, in an attempt to make the center’s resources more accessible and its space more welcoming.

“We want to work on that—our image and what we’re doing—so we can be better,” Westbrook said. “We want people to give us a chance.”

Westbrook also helped kick-start the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) support group that will be having its first meeting on Sept. 29. This year the Counseling Center is also launching a support group for international students, “United,” supervised by Mehak Kapoor, who joined the center this year.

“They were looking for someone who focused on diversity and inclusion,” Kapoor said. “Someone who has worked with multicultural perspectives in counseling, and someone who can really work with international students.”

Leela Addepalli, ’25, who also attended the open house, came up with the idea behind United and helped bring the group to life. 

“Being an international student on this campus specifically is not easy,” Addepalli said. “It’s not easy anywhere, but this campus makes it harder sometimes just because of the way social life functions.”

Addepalli is also involved with the Washingtonian Society, a collegiate recovery group for students who want to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol and/or other substances. According to her, the support group systems, including United and the Washingtonian Society, are extremely valuable resources for W&L students who might be experiencing culture shock or struggling with the intensity of the college experience.

“While some people thrive in that sort of pressure and atmosphere, there are people who could also be drowning,” Addepalli said. “And the support group system is designed to identify and support the students that are drowning or on the verge of drowning.”

The Counseling Center is open and available to students struggling with mental health issues and concerns that might be impacting their academics, social life and general well-being.