Sign In
Contact Information
Counseling Center
Deb Thorstenson, Director
Student Center 240
1200 S. Jay St.
Aberdeen, S.D. 57401
Phone: 605-626-2371
After Hours Emergency
Northeast Mental Health Center
605-225-1010 or 605-229-1000
Portions of this webpage are used with permission from Hobart Williams and Smith, North Dakota State University, and University of St. Thomas.
The WolfPACT Scholarship
Guaranteed Scholarship
The largest guaranteed four year scholarship in the Midwest. Money you can count on. Get your ACT Score; find out your scholarship award. It's that simple!
Learn More!
Services for Students

Services for Students
Chemical Health
Crisis & Emergencies
Group Counseling
Individual Counseling
Referral Information
Stress Management Lab
What Students Say

Chemical Health
Northern is ready and willing to offer help with issues relating to alcohol and other drug use, including those who are concerned about others’ use. Our goal at Northern is prevention of high-risk use, early response to behaviors of concern, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.

Programs at Northern include:
  • Providing identification and referral skills training to residence hall staff, faculty, and other campus personnel through the Social Mentors Leadership Program


  • Providing various support and educational options for students experiencing difficulties including counseling with certified chemical dependency counselors. 


  • Offering the Insight Class and Advanced Insight Program, a two-level educational program with corresponding sanctions.


  • Making presentations on a variety of student concerns with emphasis on the role of alcohol


  • Working closely with other campus departments in creating a safe and healthy living environment.

The Counseling Center also provides assistance and referrals to treatment and prevention facilities.  You can view local facilities by going to the following:

South Dakota Directory of Accredited Alcohol and Drug Treatment & Prevention Facilities
Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator
All contacts with the Counseling Center are confidential. We will not release any information about you without your written permission. This includes parents and other family members, faculty or other university persons or anyone outside the university. Also, your contacts with the Center do not become part of your University record.
Legal limits to the confidentiality we can provide include:
  • Information about child abuse or neglect must be reported to the proper authorities;
  • If a student is dangerous to him/herself or others, steps must be taken to protect the student or those who are in danger;
  • Information about abuse to the elderly must be reported;
  • And, if you are involved in court proceedings, your records can be subpoenaed.
A disclaimer about electronic mail:
We discourage people from contacting us via e-mail regarding personal problems. The nature of email is such that we can not guarantee the confidentiality of your correspondence, nor do we find email communications as useful as in-depth, face to face contact. Moreover, we can not guarantee that we will read email right away or respond in a timely fashion.
Crisis and Emergencies
You should contact the Counseling Center for an immediate appointment if you or someone you know is in a crisis situation and/or:
  • Is unable to stop crying
  • Has thoughts of hurting self or others
  • Has not eaten in a few days (not due to illness)
  • Has not slept in a few days (not due to illness)
  • Is unable to go to classes (not due to illness)

During Office Hours
Please call the Counseling Center at 605-626-2371 to schedule an immediate appointment.  

Hours during school year: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday
Hours during summer: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
After Hours:
If you live in a residence hall, please contact your RA or hall director, who will contact the community crisis line at 229-1000.
If you do not live in the residence halls, please contact one of the following crisis numbers: 
Crisis Line
(605) 229-1000
Avera St. Luke’s Emergency Room
(605) 622-5100
Safe Harbor (Domestic violence and sexual assault)
(605) 226-1212

Advantages to Participating in a Group
Many times people only think about individual counseling to help them with their challenging personal issues. Although groups aren't for everyone, there are some distinct advantages to participating in a group:
  • Feel more connected:  Often people enter counseling believing that their problems are unique. Groups provide the opportunity for participants to see that they are "part of the human race." There is not a thought or an action that is fully outside of the experience of others. A group experience has the potential of helping people feel less alone and less "different" from others.


  • Explore issues:  In group counseling, members are given the opportunity to receive support, reassurance, suggestions, and insights from other members. This occurs in a small group setting, where members agree to keep what is said confidential. This atmosphere of safety helps members take the necessary risks to explore their concerns.


  • Gain insight:  Group counseling can help participants feel hopeful about making and maintaining changes in their lives or in themselves. People tend to have patterns of behavior or ways of interacting that repeat themselves across different relationships. Usually these patterns come from our experiences growing up. A group allows these patterns to become more visible because of the opportunity to interact with different people. When these patterns become more visible, the group member can make desired changes.


  • Learn new skills:  As group members learn about their patterns of behavior, they also learn new behaviors and skills that can help them become more effective in relationships. A group counseling setting is a safe place in which to "try out" these new skills, and get support and positive feedback from others. Groups provide an opportunity to observe the improvement other members make, and learn how people with similar concerns may have coped with them in more effective ways.


  • Help others grow:  As a member of a group, just as you benefit from insights from others' insights, you're allowed the opportunity to give to other group members. Helping others with their issues and concerns, and becoming important to others, usually raises a person's self-esteem.
Typical Counseling Groups
The Counseling Center offers a variety of groups each semester. Listed below are many of the groups we usually offer. Flyers are posted each semester indicating the groups that are available. If you are interested in any of the groups, please call or come by the Counseling Center. You will be asked to register your interest and submit a semester schedule. Group times will be determined according to registered participants’ schedules.  All groups require a pre-group interview.
Accepting Your Body
A group for students who would like to improve their feelings and thoughts about the body, especially the one they occupy. This group is designed to help members explore self-messages that may lead to a negative body image and improve self-acceptance.
Relationship Issues
This group is designed to help those who find relationships difficult by providing support and information.

Sexual Abuse Recovery Group
For those in the process of recovering from the traumatic effects of incest and childhood sexual abuse. Our focus will be on discovering ways to heal, empower yourself, and get on with your life.
Stand Up for Yourself
Learn how to be assertive and get your needs met. This assertiveness training group will meet for six weeks and will cover assertiveness skills such as effective communication, setting personal boundaries, and improving confidence.
Stress Management
A short-term group for individuals who wish to develop healthier ways to understand, assess and cope with stress. Learn relaxation techniques and behavioral/thinking strategies to reduce stress.
Personal Growth Group
A group for individuals who desire a safe place to receive support and to openly share concerns and experiences regarding personal and relationship issues.
Grief and Loss
The goals of this group is for students to be able to confidentially share their feelings related to experiences of grief or loss. Meet with others in a supportive atmosphere, and gain a better understanding of how to cope when going through emotionally difficult times. 
If you are interested in any of the groups, please call 605-626-2371 or come by the Counseling Center in Student Center 240.
Each year Northern’s Counseling Center provides a directory of support groups that are available in the NSU area.  If you have information about a new or current support group, please contact Deb Thorstenson at
Individual Counseling
Personal counseling is offered when life’s challenges interfere with a student’s ability to learn.  The Counseling Center offers individual counseling to meet a variety of personal and academic issues.  Most students find that meeting with a counselor for 3-10 sessions is sufficient.  The average number of sessions per student each year is 6. However, the total number of sessions will vary depending on the issue(s) you bring to counseling.  If your concerns require more extensive services than are offered at Northern, your counselor can assist you in making an appropriate referral to a community agency.  
Make an appointment by doing one of the following:
  • Come to the Counseling Center in Student  Center 240.
  • Or, call us at 605-626-2371.


During your first appointment, you will be asked to complete an intake form, which provides background for the counselor; and read and sign the Informed Consent for Treatment that explains how the Center handles important aspects of counseling, such as what you can expect from counseling, your responsibilities in counseling, and confidentiality and its limits.
Crisis Counseling
If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call Counseling Center at 605-626-2371. For more information on after-hours help, please read the Crisis & Emergencies page.
NSU's Insight Program
The Insight Program at Northern State University is a multi-level disciplinary system serving the 5th Judicial Circuit Courts, NSU Judicial Affairs, and NSU Athletic Department. 
The Insight Program is an early intervention service for individuals ages 18-20 in the Court and all ages for Judicial Affairs and the Athletic Department.  Early intervention services are designed to explore and address problems or risk factors that appear to be related to substance use, and assist the individual in recognizing the harmful consequences of inappropriate substance use.
There are 2 levels for the Court and Judicial Affairs.  Level 1 utilizes a 1-day class program, “Prime for Life: On Campus Talking About Alcohol”.  Level 2 is comprised of individual meetings with a counselor.
Individuals have 60 days from the date of their court appearance or date of hall violation to complete Insight requirements.
First Offense
Level 1
An individual’s first offense results in a referral to the Insight class.  This is a 1-day class held on 1 Saturday each month.  Class registration starts at 7:30 a.m. and class starts at 8 a.m.  Class generally concludes by 4 p.m.
Level 1 utilizes the “Prime for Life:  On Campus Talking About Alcohol” program.  This is a risk reduction program, emphasizing alcohol, with 2 main goals.  The first goal is “to help each person reduce risk for any type of alcohol or drug problem by using the Five Steps to Risk Reduction.”  The 2nd goal focuses “on self-assessment to help people who are making high-risk choices understand and accept the need to make changes, either in their lifestyles or in choices that they make, to avoid future problems.” (Prime for Life:  On Campus Talking about Alcohol study guide, 1999). 
Subsequent Offenses
Level 2
An individual’s 2nd offense results in mandatory attendance in individual counseling for a minimum of 4 sessions.  Level 2 utilizes “Alcohol Skills Training Program” and “Alcohol 101+” CD-ROM and E-CHUG to provide personalized feedback about consequences of high-risk use.
The “Alcohol Skills Training Program” is comprised of 10 components, which cover such topics as Assessment of Use, Alcohol and the Body, BAC and Tolerance, and Monitoring Drinking Behavior.
Alcohol 101+ was created by the University of Illinois in partnership with the Century Council to reduce the harm associated with the misuse of alcohol.  The program provides the physiological, psychological, and legal information to help individuals make responsible decisions about drinking.  Or not drinking.          

Chemical Health Evaluations

The Insight program has qualified staff to perform chemical health evaluations to determine level of use.  An assessment can be court-ordered, or is available for people who would just like a more accurate assessment of their level of use.  The initial evaluation meeting takes about 1-1 ½ hours.  The evaluation can also be used to determine treatment recommendations.
Program Fees
The fee schedule* is as follows:
Level 1
Court ordered:                        $150
NSU Office of Judicial Affairs:   $100
Level 2 (Advanced Insight)
Court Ordered:                        $150
Campus violation:                    No fee, although a fine may be assessed by the NSU Office of Judicial Affairs.  For more information, please refer to your student handbook.)
Court ordered:              $75
Self-referral:                 No charge
Hall referral:                  No charge
*Level 2 services for a campus violation are currently considered free and a part of the counseling services offered to NSU students.  If a person is self-referred, there would be no charge for any services. 
Payment of the $150 (Court) or $100 (Campus) fees must be made at the time of registration and only check, cash, and money orders are accepted.  NO PAYMENT PLANS ARE ACCEPTED.  
Any evidence of alcohol or other drug use will result in immediate referral to the police. 
Release of information
The Counseling Center can help you find options for mental health services in the Aberdeen area.  Typical referrals might include couple or family therapy, psychiatric consultations, or referrals for family or friends of the NSU community.
Resources in the Aberdeen area include the following:
    310 15th Ave SE
    Aberdeen, SD 57401
Lutheran Social Services
 202 S Main St Ste 228
      Aberdeen, SD 57401
Northeastern Mental Health Center  
     703 3rd Ave SE
        Aberdeen, SD 57401
     405 8th Ave NW Ste 333
     Aberdeen, SD 57401
The Counseling Center also provides assistance and referrals to treatment and prevention facilities.  You can view local facilities by going to the following:
Stress Management Lab
Everyone, especially college students, knows what stress is - and the Stress Management Lab offered by the Counseling Center helps you do something about it.  Through individual sessions, you will learn simple tension-relieving exercises and find the relaxation technique that works for you.  Participating in the Stress Management Lab will help you develop new and healthy ways of coping with stress.
  • Relaxation Exercises:  Relaxation exercises are easy to learn and implement, and can be remarkably effective in addressing stress, test anxiety, all kinds of phobias, and other similar concerns. This link will take you to downloadable relaxation exercises from Hobart Williams and Smith College.
  • Six Myths About Stress:  There are six myths that surround stress.  This article from the APA Help Center looks at these myths and dispels them.
  • Anxiety: This site provides you with information about anxiety and how to deal with it.  There are also several great links for stress, studying, healthy eating and more.
Stress Management/Anxiety Reduction
  • Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work that you have?
  • Do you worry about even minor things?
  • Do you become so stressed that you have difficulty focusing on your work?
  • Do you frequently have stomach upset, tension headaches, or muscle pain?
  • Do you have difficulties falling asleep at night because you worry about what you have not accomplished or what you should have done that day?
  • During times of stress do you become more irritable or react strongly to minor problems?

If you can relate to any of the above and would like assistance in alleviating these problems, you may want to take advantage of the services offered at the Counseling Center.


What Students Say
  • "I feel that the Counseling Center is really helping me to cope with things better.  I think that it is a necessary thing to have available to all college students.  It has helped me out a lot.  
The two counseling sessions were part of my Counseling Skills class – Psych 493. Reception area personnel were friendly.  I felt comfortable talking to my counselor as he was very open, unassuming, friendly, and positive.  I wouldn’t hesitate (if I had a problem or concern) in coming over and talking with someone at the Counseling Center.  Students need non-judgmental counselors on campus.  My experience was a positive one."
  • "My counselor is an exceptional counselor and a great asset to the NSU Counseling Center.  I am a 100% supporter of the Center.  I feel comfortable going to several people at the Center…there are great people working for the students of NSU!"
  • "I am honestly super satisfied with my experience."
  • "I would just like to say that before I started counseling at NSU, I disliked the whole idea because I previously felt I wasn’t getting the help I needed.  Now I look forward to talking with my counselor every week.  She is helping me figure out how I can get through my problems and my views on counseling have changed greatly.  I would just like to say that I really appreciate your services because they really help.  Thank you."
  • "The Counseling Center is what has kept me in school.  With all the pressures of being a parent and step parent, going to school, and maintaining a part time job, my counselor  has been the one to keep me sane.  I would and will suggest counseling to any non-trad student!"
  • "I really appreciate the counseling services I was given.  They really helped me get through some tough times.  I believe that the counseling service is a necessary part of NSU.  It provides services to students at no cost – a plus because some of us could not otherwise go due to lack of money.  School is a high-stress environment and sometimes students need help.  It’s good to have a place to go to get help."
  • "I do not have suggestions for improvement in the Counseling Center.  I think it is a beautiful service for which I am very grateful.  I like the group work I have done Thank you."
  • "My counselor was awesome and helped me cope with things better and was a great help in helping me realize some things I already knew but was scared to face.  Thanks for all your help!"
  • "My counselor was invaluable in helping me better understand some of my own issues and how they relate to my problems.  She was also very helpful in showing me how to understand my wife’s background, and to recognize behavior patterns of an ACA.  Thank you for referring me to the best person for the job."