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Nicole Festian

In Nicole Festian’s role as a counselor at Seaholm High School, her contribution and commitment to helping students was recently recognized by The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and Affiliates as one of 10 school counselors nationwide who were selected to receive a 2022 National Certified School Counselor Award.

“The award honors extraordinary efforts by school counselors to address youth mental health needs and initiate suicide prevention programming in school communities,” Festian explained. “I’m passionate about helping people and the social-emotional wellbeing of our students – and I was honored to receive this award.”

She was excited that the award came with $1,000 to be used toward furthering mental health programming at her school.

According to Festian, the top mental health concern counselors encounter among Seaholm High School students is related to anxiety, which, she said, has only gotten worse with the COVID-19 pandemic. “Seaholm is a rigorous school and, while that is good, it brings with it a higher level of pressure and a specific type of anxiety associated with high performance and perfection.”

As a high school counselor, Festian works with students on three main areas: academic planning, college and career planning, and social-emotional wellbeing. She serves on the UMatter committee, which hosts an annual spirit week dedicated to student mental health and wellness while promoting the message that “everyone matters” – individually and to the school community. She is also involved in various student support groups and leads safeTALK suicide alertness training inside and outside the school environment.

Festian grew up in Troy and attended Oakland University (“I’ve always been local”). She has been a counselor for 10 years and worked in Holly Area Schools before starting her position with Birmingham Public Schools five years ago. Outside of the school setting, she has been in private practice since 2017 as a contractual licensed professional therapist at Healing Hearts and Minds Center for Counseling in Rochester Hills, focusing on individual, family, and play therapy.

“While I enjoy working with students, I missed helping a client long-term – developing coping strategies and seeing progress. My school role is more solution-based and referring students outside who would benefit from more in-depth counseling,” she said.

In addition to her busy professional schedule, Festian leads an eventful personal life. She is engaged to be married and, on top of planning a wedding, she and her fiancé recently bought a new house in Lake Orion. She loves spending time on the water, cooking, practicing yoga, and being with her dogs – two Australian Shepherds named Kona and Dahlia, one of which is a therapy dog she has brought to work with her at Seaholm High School.

Festian noted that when it comes to mental health at any age, there may be times that the old way of approaching life challenges is no longer effective and professional help is needed to begin the healing process.

“At any age, it’s important to identify patterns and triggers, especially with anxiety, then work toward ‘How do I manage better?’ While it’s a different formula for each person, professional help along with strategies such as breathing, mindfulness, getting out to exercise or socialize help many people.”

She added, “As each year progresses, the stigma is reduced. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – know that there are resources available.”

Story: Tracy Donohue

Photo: Mackenzie O'Brien


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