Every March, more than 800 students from the four local colleges, wearing t-shirts in their school colors, converge on downtown Harrisonburg to raise awareness about suicide prevention. Walk For Hope is just one of the community events that Randall “Randy” Hook ’95, MSW, is involved with as director of counseling services at Bridgewater College. Working under him are Amy Ghaemmaghami, MA ’05 (counseling), LPC, and intern Michael Horst, currently enrolled in EMU’s MA in counseling program.
A college with a counseling department staffed completely by graduates of a neighboring university is, it’s probably safe to say, quite rare. Granted, we are talking a staff of three, which lengthens the odds. And maybe the shared Anabaptist roots of EMU and Bridgewater College have something to do with it. Or maybe it’s just opportunity and calling. Ghaemmaghami arrived at Bridgewater in 2009. Hook joined the counseling department in 2010, having previously worked as coordinator of the partial hospitalization program at Rockingham Memorial Hospital and executive director of The Center for Marriage and Family Counseling, a local nonprofit agency.
Though their primary responsibility is the psychological care of students through counseling, Hook and his staff also provide outreach and education through student life and wellness programs. Focusing on prevention and intervention, they consult with faculty and staff about mental health issues and provide resources to the community of approximately 1,760 students.
“It’s such a fun age to work with,” Hook says. “Their world is just exploding, they’re debunking myths and realizing myths and they’re questioning belief systems and there’s a lot of these existential questions and issues of faith and healing. I feel privileged to be a part of that conversation.”
Deriving energy and sustenance from diverse professional pursuits, Hook has continued counseling in private practice. With Kristy Troyer Koser ’07, MA ’09 (counseling), he has conducted marriage seminars. Hook also teaches in EMU’s master’s in counseling program (he has also been an adjunct faculty member at Blue Ridge Community College, James Madison University, and Bridgewater College).
Two EMU master’s in counseling students have benefited from an intern program that Hook started at Bridgewater. Sarah Defnall ’10, MA ’12 (counseling), was the first intern (she is now a residence director at Northlawn and works in career counseling). Michael Horst is currently completing the requisite 600-hour internship under Hook’s supervision.
— Lauren Jefferson