Of all the questions that college students pose, asking for help with issues of emotional well-being may be the toughest.
Enter Ruth Burgher-Gibore, who recently joined Woodbury as Director of Counseling Services, fulfilling a longstanding desire to be of service to college-age students within the San Fernando Valley. That said, Ruth has spent her entire professional career addressing mental health concerns, with child, adolescent, adult and older adult populations in both Los Angeles and South Florida.
“Woodbury offered an opportunity to work exclusively with the private university population as well as to assist those within the Valley, where I happen to live,” she says. “For us, the most pressing issues deal with ensuring that all students are supported, since the demand for counseling services is so great.” The Burbank campus includes a counseling services department staff of three, two of which are part-time, along with an additional staff member on the San Diego campus.
Ruth became licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in 2004, following completion of her Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from United States International University in Scripps Ranch San Diego. She obtained her undergraduate BA in Psychology from Long Island University in Brooklyn.
“I have worked in various capacities within the mental health community since the age of 18,” she says. “That includes administrative leadership, managing multiple clinics, programs and contracts, as well as direct service provision. I enjoy both the management side and the counseling side. At Woodbury, I have the opportunity to do both.”
Ruth is especially attuned to the challenges associated with serving first-generation students. “Communication and acculturation-related concerns are paramount, and that definitely applies to Woodbury,” she says. “Often, the student’s first language may be one other than English. This can present issues in expressing ideas or mental health-related concepts to family members, particularly when those expressions are not consistent with cultural or family norms and values. Students find themselves adapting and adjusting to the new culture at large, in general – and family members aren’t always able to readily embrace these kinds of changes.”
As a participating member of the campus CARE team – an active committee comprised of security staff, admissions staff, support staff, the Associate Dean of Students and the Director of Counseling – Ruth and colleagues assess concerns to determine both the level of risk and appropriate interventions. Staff, faculty and students are invited to submit student-related concerns to the CARE team at any time, via Starfish, Gecko, e-mail and other means of communication.
“The CARE team is involved in multiple areas of student concern, with the primary focus being to ensure the student’s well-being and optimal functioning on campus,” she says. “The CARE team is a support base from which interventions are determined. And family members can meet with members of the CARE team, depending on the need. I think it’s absolutely wonderful that Woodbury offers counseling services right here on campus, accessible to any and all students.”