Counseling Center offers new location, new groups for new academic year

Emily Eichhorn and Brittany Holland, Back, Celia McKechnie, Danielle Daniels and Jennifer Watson

Members of the UAH Counseling Center staff are, from left: Front, Emily Eichhorn and Brittany Holland. Back, Celia McKechnie, Danielle Daniels and Jennifer Watson.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Newly located in a spacious and inviting office in Executive Plaza Building 200, Suite 208, The University of Alabama in Huntsville Student Counseling Center now has a room dedicated to group activities and is starting two support groups for the new academic year.

One of the groups is for students who need help with social skills or have been diagnosed with Autism. It will be called Under the Umbrella. Additionally, a transgender support group called Trans+ (Trans Positive) is open to UAH students who are identify as transgender, transitioning, or gender non-conforming. A third six to eight week group program for those experiencing anxiety and/or depression is in the planning stages and will be beginning mid-September, as well as the possibility of a therapeutic art group.

Any student with three or more credit hours can use the services provided by the mental health professionals at the Counseling Center. Students interested in any group activity or in any of the counseling services offered by the center may call 256-824-6203 or stop by the office for more information.

The center offers individual, group and couples counseling for students, as well as off-campus referrals when needed.

In addition, the Counseling Center offers a Wellness Space that provides services to promote self-care, relaxation, stress management and performance-enhancing activities. The space offers a massage chair, biofeedback, self-guided meditation, aromatherapy and other options for use by students, faculty or staff. Call for scheduling information.

Director Emily Eichhorn says the staff is excited by the possibilities the center’s new space can provide for group meetings.

"We have been talking about it for some time to determine the need and Under the Umbrella and Trans+ are our first two groups, now that we have the space that affords us the luxury of accommodating them," Eichhorn says.

The groups evolved from the broader-based Walk It Out, a Counseling Center program where a group of UAH students take an informal walk on campus with a licensed mental health counselor, share what's going on in life and provide feedback to peers about their daily life stressors. Walk It Out is held every Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Under the Umbrella Lunch Social is a luncheon gathering led by Counselor Danielle Daniels that focuses on helping students who feel social skills are a challenge, whether they have been diagnosed with autism or not. It meets on non-holiday Fridays each week beginning Aug. 24 from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Students should bring their own lunch upon attendance.

"It’s going to work like a support group but we are also going to have a psychology educational component," Daniels says.

The Friday meetings are more informal than a traditional group. "We’re going to have lunch and we plan to have fun social skills and interactive activities," she says. There will also be the Under the Umbrella Skills Group that will meet on every third Thursday each month from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 20. Each meeting will have a specific topic.

"This group is really for anyone who has social anxiety or needs help with social skills, whether or not they have been diagnosed with autism," Eichhorn says.

Counselor Celia McKechnie leads Trans+ and Walk It Out with help from Daniels. Trans+ is a safe, supportive and positive interpersonal process group. Students interested in this group option must call and inquire about the group. The location and times are private to protect the privacy of students who may be participating.

"The goal with Trans+ is to have a support group and also a psycho-educational environment for individuals who are transgender or gender nonconforming," says McKechnie.

The Counseling Center offers a wide range of services that include outreach presentations and seminars for student, faculty and staff organizations, and team building and group exercises for university organizations and groups.

"We want to be open and inviting," Eichhorn says. "We have been working for the last few years to be more visible to students and more accessible."

The center will host its annual Mental Health Awareness event called Fresh Check Day in April of 2019. For this event, many community resources and campus resources partner to bring a message to campus that brings awareness to mental health concerns, as well as having a focus on suicide awareness and prevention education. Fresh Check Day will be an interactive day with activities, free food, fun and prize giveaways.

The Counseling Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday except for university holidays, and Eichhorn encourages students to stop by and check it out.

"We want to help you process your current circumstances and be more successful in your academic career."


Emily Eichhorn

Jim Steele