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Counseling Center Receiving National Recognition for Promoting Health among College Students

March 2, 2009

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Counselors help students learn to be responsible in and out of the classroom.

Counselors help students learn to be responsible both in and out of the classroom. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Every autumn, students across the country take their first steps onto college campuses as undergraduates, where they will meet new friends and explore a vast array of educational opportunities. As with any new venture, there are also some potential pitfalls to avoid, and it can be a learning experience to navigate these challenges.

The University at Albany Counseling Center is being recognized nationally for providing a prevention and intervention framework for students so that they learn to reduce their risk for alcohol use and related negative consequences.

In 2005, with the support of more than $3 million in grant funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the U.S. Department of Education, Counseling Center psychologists launched their award-winning STEPS Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Program.  This program screens first-year students, student-athletes, and students seeking primary health and counseling care on campus for risky alcohol use.  Those students who may be at risk for dangerous alcohol use are invited to participate in a brief one-session intervention, which has been shown to lead to reductions in drinking and associated negative consequences.

"The STEPS Program has allowed us to develop a collaborative endeavor with campus colleagues to identify and offer specialized and responsive services to those at risk," said Estela M. Rivero, director, Counseling Center. "This initiative adds a significant pillar to our comprehensive abuse prevention and intervention program."

Next week, the Counseling Center will be recognized for the success of its STEPS program.  On March 10 in Seattle, Wash., the Center will be receiving a "Grand Gold Medal" for program excellence from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), the largest professional student affairs organization in the United States. 

During the next two years, the Counseling Center plans to expand its STEPS program, broadening the scope of the positive changes which have already been realized. For instance, since the beginning of the STEPS Program, the Counseling Center has seen a 32 percent increase in the number of students who abstain from engaging in high-risk drinking.

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