Ohlone’s Stories: Rosemary O’Neill

Rosemary O’Neill

Personal Counselor and Life Coach


1. How long have you been at Ohlone?

I’ve been at Ohlone nine years, I’m completing my ninth year right now.

2. What is the most challenging and rewarding aspect of your job?
The most challenging aspect of my job is the demand. At one time I had an adjunct MFT therapist assisting me with 15 hours a week.  I lost her due to budget cuts.  I do my best to make up for the loss of her hours and her support. I am meeting the demand as best I can on a solo mission. Creating balance is a challenge. There are a few things to juggle.  Being sure I first meet the needs of students in providing their mental health counseling services, coupled with faculty duties and involvement on committees, and as coordinator of the program I have administrative duties. All of these combined keep me on my feet. And I am available to the faculty and staff when emergencies surface.

Amazingly, it all gets done.  And that is a reward in itself!!

The rewards are many.   I have the privilege to work with students and be trusted by students who come in and tell me their most personal stories.  I am a witness to students who have the courage to face their problems and grapple with them. And when they are vulnerable with themselves in opening up to me, well that is the highest honor, and one I take to heart.  I observe their courage and strength, how they increase their awareness and learn to articulate their issues, see their shifts and change. And when I observe students learn how to better handle their behavior, and circumstances, and put these changes into practice with positive results……this is the biggest reward.  I  see people change before my eyes; become happier with themselves and proud of their academic success.

3. What are some of things you do to relax when you’re stressed?
I have a good self-care program and I have healthy boundaries. That’s taken a long time to practice, it’s a continual practice. I try to take care of myself by making sure I don’t take on too much.  My enthusiasm can sometimes get the better of me, and I have had to learned to say no, which used to be very hard to do.  So I’m practicing that. Being realistic about what is possible and what isn’t. I’m a very big advocate of exercise and good nutrition. So I exercise everyday by walking or running in nature and that is very important for my well being.  I dance. I laugh. I am fortunate to have a good support system, family and friends and that really helps my stress level.  And I am fortunate to have a good work environment with colleagues who look out for one another. Keeping in mind all these positives make me grateful, and help me keep perspective.

4. What impacts you the most about your job?
The most impactful aspect is being able to work with students; being able to support students to believe in themselves, and to teach them the power of human connection.  This is important.  They learn to become more accepting of themselves and value their high self-worth. When I see people become more accepting and confident in themselves, I know that they will go out and influence others positively.

5. When students come in stressed what is the most important thing you tell students?
First off, the most important thing for me to do is to listen. People can be heard, they are not always “listened” to.  So when they’re stressed, I listen, I validate, and I help them to understand what’s within their control and what is not.  I underscore the fact that they have a choice as to how they want to approach their problem. They may not be able to change the condition around them but they can change the way they view the condition.  They can change their approach and perspective and their actions and their habits.

I teach them how to manage stress by getting support, by paying attention to their thinking, learning to discern if what they say to themselves is helpful or sabotaging.  I talk to them about feelings, mad, sad, glad, and scared, and help them to identify what they feel, rather than lump all their feelings into one word “stressed”. Once we know what we feel, we can address what we want to do about the feeling.  That is empowering I think.  I remind those students who are hard on themselves to lighten up, and to laugh.

Others have to learn to take responsibility for their actions and may have to buckle down.

We talk a lot about breathing and laughter as a natural antidote to stress. I talk with them about balance. Some students have too much fun and aren’t focused enough on their studies and other students are too focused on their studies and don’t know how to decompress in healthy ways, and that’s important. Learning about boundaries is key and I talk a lot about having healthy boundaries.

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