Doug Hankes

Director of Student Counseling Services
Division of Student Affairs

Doug Hankes, director of Student Counseling Services, is a licensed psychologist in Alabama and Tennessee. He received his doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of North Texas and returned to Auburn, his alma mater, in 1998 after working at the University of Tennessee. Hankes holds graduate faculty status in the Department of Psychology, the Department of Kinesiology and the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and Counseling.

He describes his therapy approach as mindfully eclectic and fosters a collaborative relationship with clients to promote change. Hankes has been actively involved at the national level in sport and exercise psychology and has served on the executive boards of the American Psychological Association Division 47 (Exercise and Sport Psychology) and the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, of which he is a fellow. He is also listed on the 2013-2016 United States Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry.

During his free time, Hankes and his son, Keegan, have been able to complete approximately 1,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail thanks to the help of his wife, Shannon, who works as a communications specialist in the Auburn Alumni Association. She takes care of a menagerie of animals while they are away, which includes their backyard chickens and Moose, the Student Counseling Services therapy dog.

1. What is the most rewarding part of your job at Student Counseling Services?

It's a cliché, but working with our Auburn students. More specifically, my staff and I get to work with students who are struggling with a wide range of mental health issues that are negatively impacting their Auburn experience, especially academics. We get to support and help them figure out what changes they can make so they're functioning at their highest level. I recently received a note from a former client that pretty much sums up why I have the best job on campus:

"I'm sure that many students write you and thank you for how much you've helped them, but I can say with all honesty that without you and the Student Counseling Services I'm not sure I would have made it through my last couple years at Auburn. I know God works in many different ways and I know he used all of you guys to help me through a truly miserable time in my life. There are no words to adequately thank you for how you've helped me. I still struggle at times but because of you I can honestly say I enjoy life again and I can live with a purpose."

My favorite non-student activity is the Camp War Eagle Parent Run. On the morning of the second day of each Camp War Eagle session, I and other interested Auburn staff and faculty, lead a 3-mile running tour of campus. This is the 19th year that we've done it. Mark Armstrong, director of First Year Experience, laughed when I suggested that we offer it as an alternative to the campus bus tour, but we're still going strong. We usually have between 15 to 40 parents show up to get hot and sweaty.

2. What led you into the psychology field initially?

My undergraduate and master's degrees were in sport psychology in kinesiology departments, not psychology. At the time, I was most interested in how to help athletes perform at their highest level. The more time I spent in the field of sport psychology, the more I came to realize that what was happening in athletes' personal lives had as much, or more, to do with their performance. I wanted to work with the entire person, not just the athletic side. So I switched fields for my doctorate and studied to become a counseling psychologist. It was the best decision of my life. As a doctoral student in counseling psychology, I started to look at the world with an entirely different lens. It was unsettling but exciting at the same time.

3. What do you do with the U.S. Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry and how did you get involved with it?

The U.S. Olympic Committee only has four to five sport psychologists who are housed at the Colorado Springs training center. There is a huge demand to provide sport psychology services for Olympic athletes and most of them cannot access the sport psychologists in Colorado Springs to the degree that they would like. Unfortunately, there are a lot of 'mental toughness gurus' across the country who are not trained or credentialed in sport psychology, but will promise they have a 'magic bullet' for guaranteed peak performance. The USOC created a vetting process to identify sport psychologists that have the required background and training to work with elite athletes.

I've been lucky to be on the USOC Sport Psychology Registry since 2003. This has allowed me to work with many Olympic and aspiring Olympic athletes with training bases in the Southeast. Of course, the Auburn University Swimming and Diving team in particular have had many Olympic athletes that I've been privileged to be a part of their performance team.

4. Is there something about Student Counseling Services that you wish more students knew?

My staff (who are just as passionate about college mental health) and I are constantly working to destigmatize mental health. Mental health is just as important as one's physical health. We need to take care of both. As I said, many students comment that Student Counseling Services and the counseling process is so different than what they anticipated, in a positive way. I've threatened to rename Student Counseling Services to 'Student Counseling and Performance Psychology Services' in order to hammer home the point that you don't have to wait until you're at the end of the rope before you take advantage of counseling. Even if you're good, we can help you be better. Did I mention we do not charge for our services? And don't forget our therapy dog, Moose, is at Student Counseling Services, too.

5. What do you feel is the most important thing that students can expect to gain from Student Counseling Services?

Students who utilize Student Counseling Services as a resource and fully engage in the collaborative process of counseling will learn about themselves in a way that will allow them to be more effective in their personal lives, as well as academically. To work with a professional who is an expert in college student mental health, who is totally nonjudgmental and who will maintain complete confidentiality, can be a powerful, life-altering experience. Students who have never met with a mental health professional before are almost always surprised that the experience is not what they expected. I joke all of the time that as an undergraduate at Auburn you could not have hog-tied and drug me into see a counselor. Why would you talk to someone who doesn't know you? Of course, that's what I've ended up doing as my career, and wow, could I ever have benefited from counseling back in the day.

Last Updated: June 27, 2016

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