It’s easy to walk past Hale’La’akea 234 on your way to The Hub and not notice the sign that says, “Mental Health and Wellness Counselor.”
But that is where you’ll find Dan McAlinden, who offers personal counseling for all students on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
An appointment can be made by calling (808) 235-7413. The new service was created to help support WCC student success.
Mental health and counseling are often associated with instability and shame. However counseling can benefit a student dealing with simple, everyday stress. McAlinden wants students to feel comfortable asking for help.
He says that the fear of counseling comes from the fear “. . . (that) something is wrong with me and I can’t handle it on my own. When that is not the case, sometimes we are the answer.
“That’s why we put mental health and wellness (in the title). It’s because a lot of what we do here, it’s not an illness type thing. Everyone has issues. If we work on them, we can improve ourselves.”
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Ardis Eschenberg encourages students to use the resource McAlinden provides.
“Personal counseling provides an opportunity to set goals, make changes and develop in a supportive context,” she explains.
“Our trained staff can assist you in making positive changes and improving the quality of your life.”
McAlinden is a UH alumnus and holds a master’s in social work. He is graduating this year with his doctorate in psychology from Argosy University. When he is not counseling students at WCC, he is interning at UH Mānoa as a staff therapist.
Firmly believing that everyone has the ability to solve their problems, McAlinden says, “It’s only when people find their own solutions that it is more effective than being prescribed. “. . . That’s a part of what counseling is, to help people figure how to come to their own solutions when counseling is not available.”
Eschenberg says she’s thankful for the services McAlinden has already provided this semester. “In crises, he has been able to provide guidance and support to both staff and students.”
Everyone has to deal with the stresses of balancing work, school, family and friends. McAlinden wants to offer a safe place for students to deal with the struggles of life. He explains that he strives to “. . . create a safe environment where (students) don’t feel accused or criticized.”
If the scheduled times at WCC are inconvenient, he can find outside services that will work with a student’s health coverage.
The position was created this semester to meet students’ needs in a new way. Eschenberg explained, “There have been a number of situations over the past two years that have made the need for mental health counseling services paramount.
“All the other UH community colleges had such a position. This fall several factors helped to prioritize this as a top need for our campus.”
McAlinden offers an open door and an opportunity for a student to be heard. “Students can always walk in, if in a crisis,” he says.
by Hannah Marquez, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter