American University of Beirut

AUB’s Counseling Center – a place to rely on

Friday, October 9, 2020​

It’s easy to see the physical damage that the August 4 explosion caused. It’s much harder to see the psychological damage. It’s no less real though. In a “rapid needs assessment” that UNICEF and its partners conducted in mid-August, it was reported that “half of respondents reported that children in their households were showing changes in behaviour or signs of trauma or extreme stress following the explosions​.” 

One of the ways that AUB’s Office of Student Affairs responded to the August 4 explosion was to provide psychological support to the community. Counselor in Residence Chant Kazandjian was among those who staffed a booth in Mar Mikhael, very near the site of the explosion. He and his colleagues provided on-site consultations and offered free sessions to members of the public. “We met with many parents – often accompanied by their children,” says Kazandjian. Counseling assistant Chahla Kiblawi Hachem and Layal Al Shami, who is a clinical psychologist at the center, say that many parents reported that their children “were afraid of loud and sudden noises after the explosion.” Paoula Saoud, who is also a clinical psychologist at the center, spoke to parents who were concerned about the short- and long-term effects of trauma on their children’s mental health and well-being.

In recent weeks, the OSA Counseling Center has focused its efforts on the needs of the AUB community – all of whom live in Lebanon, many of whom were also directly affected by the explosion. Their efforts have been warmly received. “I am staff at AUB and was so relieved to know that they [the Counseling Center] were there for everyone, easy to reach, even when the whole country and university were shut down for many reasons,” reported one staff member.

Some of the students that Kazandjian and his colleagues have seen were already receiving counseling including a first-year graduate student who commented, “In a moment like this, where everything seems so unstable and frustrating, we all need something to rely on. The counseling center, with its entire driven staff, is most definitely one of those things.” Another student who Clinical Psychologist Ruby Sawaya met recently described the counseling center as “the only stable aspect during such an unstable time period.”

The AUB counselors are quick to caution that recovering from a traumatic incident will take time. “We are here to help – for as long as we’re needed,” says Kazandjian.​

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