Many students tend to turn to peers or near-peers (those closer to their age/experience) for mental health support before turning to faculty and staff. Some institutions are turning this fact into peer well-being support programs designed to destigmatize help-seeking behaviors.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has developed a pilot program where two Masters of Social Work students serve as well-being coaches in a first-year student residence hall. They offer undergraduate students both virtual and in-person sessions, employing an empathetic listening approach to help students create goal-oriented action plans, reported Inside Higher Ed. The well-being coaches also help support residential life staff in the health and wellness arena.

“Coaching sessions are goal-oriented conversations designed to reconnect participants with their own wisdom to identify possibilities and create action steps that move them closer to the changes they want to see in their lives,” well-being coach Shana Sobhani told the publication.

The selected Master’s of Social Work students serving as residential well-being coaches are trained by more experienced coaches, practicing through recording sessions that are reviewed and evaluated by a supervisor. The coaches complete a background check and they also receive FERPA training related to accessing student files, as well as mandatory reporting training.

Interested students can sign up for well-being coaching by scanning a QR code to fill out a short intake form. They identify the three top areas where they want support from a staff-created list of topics, including health, self-care, stress management, sleep, motivation, confidence and more. Kala Bullett, senior director of residential education at Carolina Housing, told Inside Higher Ed that staff spotlighted these potential support areas because students sometimes don’t recognize where they need help initially.

Students guide the sessions that typically run from 30-60 minutes. They may be one-time only or part of reoccurring sessions based on student interest.

Source: Inside Higher Ed, 11/29/23

There are so many good ideas out there and this is just one! Tap into our 50 Targeted Success Strategies to Create a Campus Culture of Well-Being to put students’ well-being front and center.