News & Publications
Letter Home, Spring 2009
St. John's Counselors Nurture Mind, Body, and Spirit
The counseling offices at the Harrison Health Center are welcoming, with overstuffed couches, soft lighting and music, and other homey touches. Counselors Bernadette Zorio and Judy Lazarus have herbal tea ready for the students who come to talk with them. Sometimes students want to discuss something like a case of homesickness or an argument with a roommate; other times, they have more serious issues, such as depression or an eating disorder.
Both professional and experienced therapists, Ms. Zorio and Ms. Lazarus offer services ranging from occasional conversations to crisis intervention, which may involve a referral to a local psychiatrist. They keep regular office hours and are on call for emergencies.
"The students need a support network and we are here for them," says Ms. Lazarus. "They are trying to figure out life's meaning for them right now and they need a conversation with someone who is willing to give them time, really listen, and help them find what will ground them in real life here."
College life brings great change to young people: new relationships, stress from the academic workload, uncertainty over the future—and many students are comfortable reaching out for assistance, the counselors say. Other issues student face include sleep disorders, shyness, social anxiety, and the impact of major family events.
"For freshmen it is often homesickness or loneliness as they try out a lot of different relationships," says Ms. Zorio. "The freedom of college life can be scary. They may not know anyone well enough yet to talk candidly with them so they come to us."
Sophomores and juniors are often "shipwrecked on the Program," says Ms. Lazarus. "Sophomore year, for instance, they read the Bible and are faced with some hard theological questions. This can be difficult for some students."
In their senior year, some students are "dealing with pressures of making tough choices, figuring out who they will be when they leave college," says Ms. Zorio. "This age group is so energetic, so sensitive, and so wired technologically—but not always connected emotionally and spiritually. We work to help them find physical, emotional, and spiritual balance." Zorio and Lazarus also collaborate with the health center's two nurses when students need medication or are physically ill.
Working with Zorio and Lazarus is Jerry Januszewski, a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor who is a new addition to the staff. "I'm an alternative for students who are more comfortable with a male counselor," he says. Januszewski has a special interest in working with students who may be struggling with addiction, and he offers preventative education and intervention as well as information on treatment options. Januszewski most recently worked with students at George Washington University.
The counseling services offered on campus are open-ended and free of charge. Zorio and Lazarus see some students on a regular basis for the four years they attend the college, and others for just a few sessions. They also are well connected with the local medical community, which is critical when referrals are needed for medical psychiatric care. Each year, students can have up to three visits, free of charge, with a psychiatrist.
In addition the college offers healing touch, an alternative therapy that hospitals and medical practitioners are beginning to recognize. In healing touch therapy, practitioners use their hands above or on the body, using a gentle touch, with the intent of affecting the body's energy fields. "It is a great help to many students for bodily symptoms, stress management, and pain reduction," says Ms. Zorio, who recently completed her certification as a Touch Healing Practitioner.
Both Zorio and Lazarus are parents, and they are happy to make time to talk with parents about general concerns. However, confidentiality laws prohibit them, in most circumstances, from disclosing student information, including whether or not the student has seen a counselor. Lazarus, a former community mental health worker with a master's in social work from Catholic University, has four children: a daughter, 22; and three sons, 20, 28, and 31. Ms. Zorio, with a bachelor's in nursing from Duquesne and a master's in psychiatric/mental health nursing from Catholic, has two boys: one 27, the other a junior in college.
"Concerned parents call us and we share options with them," says Lazarus. "I might coach them on new ways to connect with their student. Often parents have worries—they haven't heard from their son or daughter in a while. They might not be used to the geographic distance and wonder how their student is adjusting. They don't live close enough to have lunch—so I might talk with them about new ways to connect or when it makes sense to back off."
The counselors can be reached at 410-626-2552 (Ms. Zorio, ext. 2121; Ms. Lazarus ext. 2118). Jerry Januszewski can be reached at 410-626-4501.