Counseling for a Lifetime of Health

Terri Petzold arrived at the College on August 1, 2018, with two immediate goals: to establish the first-ever office for counseling services for students on campus and to decrease the stigma behind mental health issues. Prior to her employment, the College outsourced counseling.

According to Petzold, 20% of adults will experience mental health needs at some time in their lives, and this prevalence is true of student populations on college campuses as well. “The College wanted to provide a counselor who is accessible and available to students right here on campus,” Terri explained. “Convenience is important. My role is to help students navigate through a major time of transition in their lives.”

“I want students to recognize that asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness and to learn to ask for help,” she said. “They need tools to handle stress and to develop healthy relationships and make good decisions.”

She shared that stress is a major issue for many students. They crave independence, but with independence comes responsibility and homesickness, too. They also deal with issues of disorganization, life balance, grades, lack of sleep, anxiety and depression.  “Their coping skills are not yet well developed. They need help with understanding what factors are causing their stress. More importantly, they need help recognizing their personal strengths, which will help them work through those stress triggers,” Terri explained. “My desire is to empower students, not to enable them. My goal is to assist them in developing coping strategies that will help them now and for a lifetime.”

Terri said the brain continues to develop up to the age of 24 or 25. “Whatever a young adult takes in, whether it is physical or mental intake, affects brain development. In counseling, I make students aware of this and empower them to make good, healthy decisions.”

She shared that there is a vast difference in living in a home with a number of rooms and living in a dorm room. “At home, there are usually different rooms for gaming, studying, meals, entertainment and relaxation. When students settle into dorm rooms, most of these activities often take place in that small, confined space, and the result is constant distractions. I encourage them to use their dorm room only for sleeping and relaxation, and to utilize other areas on campus for the other activities. This reduces distractions and the subsequent stress of the distractions.”

Terri uses an acronym to explain what takes place in treatment:

Trust – Counseling sessions are confidential.

Hope –  This is conveyed to all students.

Empowerment – “What you learn today you can use for a lifetime.”

Resiliency – “You have what it takes to bounce back.”

Accountability – Students are responsible for their actions and decisions.

Perseverance – They are encouraged to continue to use coping skills and not give up.

Yourself – Students are encouraged to realize they are uniquely made by God and to live who they are created to be, rather than trying to conform to others’ standards.

“I work with a supportive team of faculty and staff, and together we are building a campus of caregivers,” shared Terri. The Cabinet participated in a Mental Health First Aid workshop in February, and coaches, resident assistants and resident directors will take part in similar workshops in August before classes begin. “The workshops provide tools to help spot people who are in crisis and know how to take action and refer them for help.” Training will be provided by River Valley Behavioral Health.

A number of activities during Every Life Matters Suicide Awareness and Prevention Week in April raised awareness and provided tools for action. QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) evidence-based training was provided to 32 staff, faculty and students during that week by the Owensboro Regional Suicide Prevention Coalition to help identify people who are contemplating suicide or are actively thinking of a suicide plan.

Counseling Services hosted internationally acclaimed wellness and mental health advocate Kevin Hines at Legacy Church on April 2. Hines has dedicated his life to saving lives by spreading the message of hope and sharing his art of living well mentally. A large crowd, including attendees from the community, learned how to build their own toolkits for maintaining their own mental wellness, as well as the wellness of loved ones.

“I enjoy what I do, and know I’m following God’s calling for my life,” Terri reflected. “It’s important to encourage others to be their best and to offer skills to help them manage their lives and succeed.”

Terri was a counselor for many years in local churches and was an inpatient therapist at River Valley Behavioral Health Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility before her arrival at Kentucky Wesleyan. She is married and has a son, daughter, and three grandchildren. She loves spending time with her family and enjoys traveling, horseback riding, gardening, reading biographies and needlework.

You can reach Terri at