September 21, 2001

Counseling, Assistance Offered to Cornellians

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Hoping to counter the effects of last week’s tragic events, which increased the need for counseling on campus, Gannett: Cornell University Health Services widened the scope of their services to provide the community with additional assistance and psychological care.

Counseling services, both individual and group discussion sessions with the Gannett staff, and extended hours have been integral in providing support for the Cornell community.

“We have been offering group and individual counseling services for people who want to talk about [the events of last week],” said Sharon Dittman, associate director for community relations at Gannett.

According to Dittman, Gannett offered group counseling because there is “often a sense of ‘my response seems weird'” during the grieving process, and group counseling contributes to “make people feel less alone.”

In specific cases, the staff — composed of social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists — also provided one-on-one sessions.

To accommodate the situation, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) remained open late at Gannett Health Center for the first few days after the attacks. Students had also access to a counselor after-hours, an opportunity of which students have been taking advantage, according to Dittman.

Outside of Gannett, “Community support meetings have been scheduled campus-wide and by invitation from certain groups,” said Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services.

Community support groups met daily in Willard Straight Hall.

“These were led by members of the University’s community support team,” said Tanni Hall, associate dean of students, explaining that the team “consisted of a variety of student services professionals … including CAPS counselors, dean of students office support staff, Cornell United Religious Work staff, International Students and Scholars Office workers, office of Minority Educational Affairs, Student Academic Support units, Campus Life, etc.”

If a student group feels the need for assistance, advisors from the support team can provide sessions for that group to help members “grapple with the effects of trauma,” Hall said, adding that “crisis managers” were also available for individual support.

In residence halls, staff noticed extra sensitivity in the days following the tragedy.

“The first night, we had [resident advisors] knock on doors,” Murphy said, adding that administrators also “asked residence hall directors to be very present, in case people needed a shoulder to cry on.”

In addition to services the University provided, “Probably the most sustaining has been the way friends have been watching out for each other,” Dittman said. “[There have been] countless informal opportunities to reach out to friends.”

Archived article by Stacy Williams