Legacy of support, care

Julia Battishill

There are moments from Student Counseling Center (SCC) director Dr. Steve Maybell’s career that he will always remember. One is the evening of June 5, 2014, when a school shooting occurred on campus and one student was killed.

Maybell vividly remembers the moment that he realized how much responsibility fell on him to mobilize his resources and provide what he called “psychiatric first aid” to anyone who needed it.

The clearest memory from that day for Maybell was running into a colleague, a professor, in the SPFC office. He saw immediately how urgent she was to help.

“We hugged each other, it was a beautiful moment,” he remembered, “and then she said, ‘Anything we can do, Steve. Anything we can do.’”

The next morning, a meeting was called at 8:00 a.m., and he was shocked to see how full it was so early. Professors and staff packed the room, collaborating and offering their services in any way they could. “It was just so heartwarming. So heartwarming,” Maybell said.

These are the moments that he remembers most strongly when he looks back on his years at SPU as director of the counseling center. He says that the hardest moments for the community are also the moments that most impacted his life.

“Instances where, in the face of tragedy, … people pull together, the whole campus. Students supporting one another, the way the university rose to the occasion of determining what was really needed,” he said. “It was tragic, and it was absolutely inspiring at the same time.”

Now, looking back on his 14 years at SPU, Maybell knows that these moments have shaped his experience, as well as his faith.

He has been interested in his field since he was a child, with an affinity for supporting people no matter their background or circumstance.

“In school I was never a part of a single group, but I was connected to all of the groups in some way. I frequently reached out and connected with students who had been basically shunned,” Maybell said.

Maybell also saw his mother struggle with mental health issues when he was young, which led him to be interested in psychology. He wanted to obtain the knowledge he wished he had had when he was a child.

“I think that a big part of it was feeling, as a kid, that I couldn’t help her, even though I tried, and I think that part of it is compensating for that,” he said.

Maybell studied and worked until he had obtained a Ph.D. in counseling psychology, and an MSW in clinical social work. He is also a State of Washington Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Independent Clinical Social Worker, and AAMFT Approved Supervisor.

Considering his experience in directing counseling centers, and his extensive psychology background, he was the perfect fit for the SCC job when it opened up 14 years ago. He remains grateful for the opportunity today.

Dr. Maybell has received his P.H.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy from La Jolla University. Maileca Gontinas | The Falcon

“Boy, am I fortunate to have had the opportunity to work here. It’s my favorite job of all time,” Maybell said.

In his time here, he has guided the SCC through many seasons of growth and advancement in response to the need he saw on campus.

“SCC … being simultaneously (1) a Center that delivers important counseling related services to undergraduate students, and (2) a clinical training center for new professionals in graduate school (interns) or in their first year or two receipt of their master’s degree (externs),” wrote Maybell in an email.

These developments, and many more, have been built by Maybell and his team to accomplish the goal they have always held; to fill the need.

“Over these past 14 years, the demand for mental health services at the SPU and in colleges around the country has risen greatly,” explained Maybell. “It is our clinical training program that has allowed the SCC to provide services to the 600+ students that walk through our doors every academic year.”

Maybell has filled the needs in his colleagues lives as well. Nicole Lincoln, who has worked with Maybell since fall 2011, has said Maybell “has this way of being an authentic cheerleader for every single person on his staff. … He has made it a top priority to build and nurture a culture of genuine care, respect, openness, encouragement and support at the SCC.”

Another colleague, Assistant Director Sharon Barr-Jeffrey says she “will simply miss spending time with Steve day to day. … It has been an honor to get to know Steve and so much fun too. Things will be a lot more predictable and dull without Steve in the counseling center every day!”

After so much hard work in the lives of students and staff, Maybell plans to use his time to devote himself further to political causes that he is passionate about.

One such cause is inspired by his experiences on campus, and seeing the trauma caused by gun violence.

“I’d like to work against gun violence, and the easy accessible ownership of guns. I feel like one of the lessons we’ve learned, especially in the past 20 years or so, is that America needs to reduce easy access to guns and help community be safer,” Maybell said.

It is very important to Maybell that students understand that SCC is there to help them, and things like session limits or wait times should not scare them away. SCC will make time for you if needed, he said.

“What I want to make sure everyone knows is that we also have a system for anyone who feels in any moment that they are in emotional distress enough that they need help,” Maybell explained.

“All they have to do is walk in, we’ll see any student within an hour, and we’ll go from there.”