By Steven Bonini
What is your role here at Framingham State University and what does your job entail?
I am the director of the Counseling Center at FSU, which means that I oversee the therapists work within the Counseling Center, providing counseling to students, both undergraduate and graduate students.
What is your professional and educational background?
My undergraduate degree is from Harvard University in biology, and my graduate degree is from the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. I came here from my last position, where I was the executive director of the Marblehead Counseling Center in Marblehead, Massachusetts. I have a fairly extensive background working with young people, adults, and children where I, for the most part, provided therapy for individuals with a wide range of mental health issues from straightforward anxiety, and depression, and more severe and persistent mental health issues like bipolar, schizophrenia – things of that nature.
What do you anticipate will be the best part of your new job here at Framingham State
I’m working with what I like to call the emerging adult population. I think this is a time in an individual’s life when they have all this potential. And they’re trying to grapple with “What does it mean as an individual to move forward in my life?” “How do I navigate that?” “How do I become – emerge – as a fully formed adult?” And they come in just starting sort of at that first moment when they’re out of the house, and then four years later, they come out as an individual with their own aspirations, and so that is exciting to be part of that, for those individuals who might find that they have a need to fill some of those questions with a therapeutic approach. So, I find that part of it to be very exciting – to be part of their journey, as it were.
How do you feel about your work this year as compared to last year regarding the pandemic?
Well, I think what we’ve all experienced was sort of a dislocation, of having to do everything virtually – virtual classes, virtual study, and then virtual therapy as well. And I think for a lot of individuals, all of those were challenges. And certainly, while therapy done virtually via Zoom format of one form or another, while that was valuable, it’s better than nothing at all. The idea of being able to have – to face the student – one on one in a session live is exciting, because I think more nuance is gained being face to face with an individual that can’t be achieved just through a Zoom call, as it were.
Do you have any hobbies that you’d like to tell the community about?
The curious thing is that we [therapists] tend to not discuss a lot of that stuff just because we tend not to do that. But certainly, I’m a runner, so I run nothing like a marathon or anything like that, but, I do spend a lot of time out doing those sorts of things. I do some writing, some performing as well. ... When I had the free time, a little more acting. I don’t have as much free time anymore.
Do you have any advice for campus students?
I think the key right now is – because everyone right now is trying to navigate this post – not really post – but post-COVID reality – which was everyone off campus. While we’re still in the midst of it ... I’m going to spend some of my time face to face and I’m going to spend some of my time on virtual calls of one form or another. What does that look like? How do I feel comfortable with that? I think part of the process of moving forward is feeling comfortable with this hybrid mix, as it were. What does that mean, for me as the student? What does it mean for me as the therapist or even as a professor? ... How do I acclimate to this new reality? And so, I try to advise people to find the thing that may provide them with some pleasurable moments to feel comfortable with a group of individuals. ... Find a group that feels comfortable. Find an activity that makes one feel connected. Find connections that reduce the anxiety that comes from – the natural anxiety – that comes from being part of this new reality, as it were. ... I think people respond better when they can create a way of feeling connected, and a routine. Find a routine that makes sense and do those things that allow one to feel less anxious. Anxiety comes about from feeling dislocated – from being unsure about what is going to happen. And to create an environment that feels secure and feels pleasurable – I think is something that we should all be striving for.
Is there anything else that you’d like to tell the campus community about yourself?
I like to remind people that the Counseling Center is here for people to take advantage of. We try to ensure that people who have the need to maybe have a little extra space to speak about their issues and feelings, that we’re available for them to come and to not hesitate. It’s a no-judgment zone. It’s just a place for people to feel that their needs can – some of their needs – can be addressed, and that we’re here to help, and be part of this sort of healing and re-discovery of what it means to be on a campus.