Erik Craigo

A little over 40 years ago, Kip Alishio spent his days walking through Earlham College’s campus, in Richmond, IN, listening to The Moody Blues, his favorite band.

And up until last week, he wandered Miami’s campus, working as an administrator and a counselor rather than a student.

Kip, Miami’s director of Student Counseling Services for the past 26 years, retired from Miami March 1.

Nights in white satin/never reaching the end/letters I’ve written/never meaning to send

At Earlham, Kip spent a lot of time listening and thinking deeply about what kind of career he wanted to pursue, but also, more importantly, about what kind of life he wanted to lead after graduation.

“My own time in college was a difficult time in some ways, and that in itself led me to psychology,” Kip said. “My interests have always been in the development of late adolescents and young adults. That was my specialty in college.”

Kip graduated from Earlham in 1976 and earned a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Miami University’s psychology department nine years later.

“I came from a family that struggled emotionally and that complicated my ability to do well emotionally in college,” Kip said. “I did seek out counseling when I was an undergraduate, and it helped a lot. I remembered that when I was doing my doctorate work and developing an interest in families in particular and in that particular age range of late adolescence and early adulthood.”

Beauty I’d always missed/With these eyes before/Just what the truth is/I can’t say any more

After completing his doctoral work, Kip saw an opening in Miami’s Student Counseling Services (SCS) and decided to take a job as a counselor in 1985.

He took this position while his wife finished her doctorate at Miami. Decades later, Kip jokingly shudders at the notion that he and his wife are technically “Miami Mergers.”

“I hate the term, but yes, [we are],” Kip said. “And, we both hate it because it suggests, somehow, that relationships are transactional, and I just bristle at that notion, whenever I hear that term.”

Seven years after starting to work at Miami’s counseling center, Kip was offered an opportunity to become its director.

“I never sought the role of counseling center director,” Kip said. “I agreed to take it on an interim basis 26 years ago as a way of resolving a leadership crisis that the counseling center had at that time.”

“It’s been a long interim period,” he added with a laugh.

There have been significant changes made during that interim period, both in the ways students think about mental health and the ways they seek out help.

In 1992, when Kip first began his role as the SCS director, the center only saw 3 percent of the student body.

Now, SCS regularly sees 12 percent of students — a dramatic increase over the course of 26 years, during which Kip contributed to the de-stigmatization of seeking help for one’s mental health.

“Back then, a lot of parents would be embarrassed or ashamed, and now it’s ‘you just do it,’ which is a step in the right direction,” Kip said. “I’m not leaving because I’m frustrated with the way things are going.”

In fact, SCS has made definite strides throughout the last several years.

The center recently hired three new counselors and, as one of Kip’s passion projects, has worked with TriHealth through McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital to develop in-patient treatment services.

Gazing at people, some hand in hand/Just what I’m going through they can’t understand

“I’m not ambivalent,” Kip said. “I’m very ready to leave. As I slow down the pace of this place speeds up.”

That pace can often be overwhelming.

“Honestly, it’s been a little bit discouraging to see the level of pathology among young people, increasing as it has,” Kip said. “Because they’re not just more open to coming to counseling services, but the data’s pretty clear that they need the services in increasingly high levels that previous generations have.”

While the number of  college-aged students diagnosed with depression has gone up, it hasn’t increased nearly as much as the number of students with anxiety.

Kip admitted that, throughout his career, it has been emotionally draining to work with students and their mental health difficulties, especially during college, and especially because so many students are much more anxiety-prone.

“To see [students] coming to college looking more like early high school students when it comes to their psychological resilience and strengths is a little discouraging,” Kip said.

But even so, progress is within reach for most students.

“When you’re able to see young people take advantage of what I have to offer and get better and knowing that is a seed that’s planted for the future — that they’re going to be able to build on that — is just thrilling and gratifying,” Kip said. “Just to have a couple of those types of sessions in a week offsets all the strain that comes otherwise.”

Still, Kip recognizes that it’s harder and harder to be anxious when you’re taking action, which is what he believes this latest generation of students coming into college are doing.

“Seeing the open advocacy and the demands of high school students in Parkland, Florida — seeing that this new generation, having such a voice, is very encouraging,” Kip said. “That kind of activity helps to balance the anxiety.”

Some try to tell me, thoughts they cannot defend/Just what you want to be, you will be in the end

When Kip needs to relax, he bikes. He just a bought a new one.

He plans to spend more time biking during retirement and traveling, too.

“Our daughter is in Spain, so we will be able to visit her now,” Kip said. “One of the trips my wife and I have wanted to do for a long time is drive out to the Yellowstone area, which we may do in the early summer.”

After taking a few months off, Kip plans on entering into the world of private practice and is looking forward to being a therapist again, and not so much an administrator.

“I wish in some ways that I had been able to cope with the stress and the demands of the job in way that didn’t completely exhaust me as much,” Kip said. “I think the way that I’m built, psychologically, I’m more of a counselor, more of a one-on-one listener and the administrative demands of this job require something else.”

Reflecting back on his three-plus decades at Miami, Kip wishes there was a way we could learn how to bottle the perspective we find later in life, and give it to young adults.

“Listening to The Moody Blues, from my college days, helped me a great deal,” Kip said. “Focusing especially on their lyrics, which were like poetry…there are a lot of good stories that are useful for young adults in those lyrics.”