Melissa Garrison assumes role as director of counseling center

Melissa+Garrison+will+replace+Karen+Forbes+as+director+of+the+counseling+center+after+30+years.+Photo+by+Emma+Westgard+21

Melissa Garrison will replace Karen Forbes as director of the counseling center after 30 years. Photo by Emma Westgard ’21

Gabrielle Tropp

After running the Counseling Center for 30 years, Karen Forbes stepped down and left it in the care of Melissa Garrison.

The last three decades have seen an increase in students seeking out help from the Counseling Center, especially in the field of interpersonal relationships, Forbes said. Garrison, who has been with the Counseling Center since October 2013,  is now replacing Forbes as the director and plans to expand upon the progress that had been made under Forbes.

“As a center, we will continue to build upon the strong foundation created under Dr. Forbes’ leadership. We recognize the importance of continuously evaluating our services and making adjustments,” Garrison said.

Due to the loss of Forbes at an already short-staffed center the search for more counselors is Garrison’s first task.

“We are currently conducting a search to hire two new staff counselors,” Garrison said. “Additionally, we hired a part-time counselor to help meet the demand for counseling services during the spring semester.”

Garrison has already initiated changes to the center since arriving nearly five years ago. Shortly after getting the job with the Counseling Center, she started the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support (SASS) group, which has made strides to create “a safe environment where students can receive support while focusing on their healing process. The group aims to decrease feelings of isolation that can be experienced following a sexual assault and focuses on empowerment,” according to its website.

While she will miss Lafayette, Forbes said she is confident in the hands in which she is leaving the center. “I am very happy that Dr. Garrison will be leading the counseling center. I know that she and the rest of the staff are fully committed to providing excellent services for students and the Lafayette community,” Forbes wrote in an email.

Forbes’s legacy at Lafayette includes expanding the counseling center from its 1988 staff of two people to its current size of five permanent staff positions. Under her direction the counseling center has also started group therapy sessions for students and partnered with an outside agency called Protocall Services to provide round-the-clock aid for anyone who needs it through a crisis hotline.

 “One of my favorite things about working at the counseling center was to see students succeed in making important discoveries about themselves, their values, and goals over the course of their four years at Lafayette despite sometimes feeling anxious or lost during the process,” Forbes wrote. 

“It has been a great privilege to have had thousands of deeply meaningful conversations with Lafayette students. I will miss the opportunity to learn from students and to be a witness to their struggles and triumphs,” she added.