key to reduce stress is getting involved

For new freshmen, the excitement of living on their own for the first time can go hand-in-hand with the anxiety that comes with any major life change.

Monica Kintigh, staff counselor at the Counseling, Testing and Mental Health Center, said it is not uncommon for freshmen to come by the center during their first semester for help with dealing with their anxieties.

“They have to deal with their friends, family and other things they leave behind,” Kintigh said. “Change is a good thing, but it can lead to stress.”

Kintigh is one of five full-time professionals at the Counseling Center, which is located at the Brown-Lupton Health Center. The center also has two consulting psychiatrists who work part time and a testing coordinator who comes in twice a week.

As well as counseling, Kintigh created and leads the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training program. Since 2000, more than 2,500 faculty and student leaders have been trained in suicide intervention.

David Cooper, associate director of residence life, said all first-time resident assistants go through the ASIST program as part of their training.

“The first thing they always say is that they hope they never have to use it,” Cooper said. “But the second thing they say is that they enjoy it.”

Kintigh said TCU was one of the first universities to pursue a program to prevent suicide, which is one of the three leading causes of death among college-aged students.

She also specializes in stress management and grief counseling, though she said her job requires her to handle any situation.

“Working on a college campus, you really need to be a generalist,” Kintigh said. “I have to be ready to deal with whoever comes through the door.”

Although she had not always wanted to be a counselor, Kintigh said, she always had a natural talent for helping people. After completing her English and theater majors in college, she went on to teach high school for six years after graduation.

“I found later that the counselors put the troubled kids in my class because I could work with them,” Kintigh said.

She decided she wanted to pursue a career in counseling while in graduate school originally studying to be a reading specialist. She took a class on personalities, which was a prerequisite for many majors, including school counseling.

Kintigh came to TCU in 1984 when her husband, Steve, got a job at the school as director of campus recreation.

Elizabeth Koshy, staff counselor at the Counseling Center, said working with Kintigh is a pleasure.

“She is one of the hardest-working clinicians I have ever known,” Koshy said. “She approaches everything with excellence. Her passion for helping others is contagious.”

Kintigh said the best thing freshmen can do to reduce the stress of starting college is to get involved.

“Get involved in many different things until you can find the group that can be your support system,” Kintigh said.

Kintigh said another thing students can do is to find one faculty or staff member each semester that they can get to know well.

“By the time you graduate, you will have eight to 10 faculty or staff members that can give you a reference,” Kintigh said.

Because counseling sessions are confidential, Kintigh declined to say if there was any specific case that has affected her the most. She said that for her, seeing what students do after graduation is the reward.

“What means the most to me is when someone comes back and tells us about what we’ve done,” Kintigh said.