Counselor Confidential


Dr. Sjoberg answers questions about confidentiality and happiness(Lakeside School)

Have you ever had a question that you wanted to ask a counselor but felt awkward asking it in person? This past December, students had the chance to ask their questions anonymously. Common questions, as well as ones submitted by students through a survey, were answered by  Dr. Sjoberg and Ms. Sanchez for Tatler’s counselor advice column.

Disclaimer: While each response includes specific information to the question we were given, please remember that counselors are more than happy to talk to you in person about anything that is on your mind. They will not turn a student away for wanting to talk to a counselor. 

Question: I’ve heard a lot of people ask this question about school counselors so I think it could be helpful if you answered it in the Tatler… Will you report me if I tell you about things that aren’t allowed by Lakeside, for example, alcohol/drug use or a cheating incident? How far does it go before confidentiality has to be broken?

We are happy to answer this! Our goal is to provide as confidential a space as possible. We go over the limits of confidentiality the first time we meet with a student so there are, hopefully, no surprises. We intervene and break confidentiality with issues of imminent risk of harm to self or others, as well as circumstances of abuse or neglect. We don’t “report” students for cheating or alcohol/drug use unless there is a clear risk of serious/grave harm to self or others. While it is true that there is a bit of a gray area purposefully built into that, our goal is to help students work on or work through the issues that are most important to them. Our goal is not to get them in trouble.


It seems like everyone around me has a passion for something, but I haven’t found my thing yet. Do you have any advice?

Absolutely! Don’t worry! There can be a lot of pressure to know your passion, but this pressure is ill-placed for a couple of reasons. First, if someone is going to find a true passion, it can develop at all stages of life. There is nothing saying that you must find it by the time you are 15, or 16, for example. Second, not everyone develops a strong passion. Instead, some people enjoy a lot of different things — both in terms of academics and extracurriculars. In fact, sometimes people with a lot of interests, but not a deep passion, can be happier! So our advice is to enjoy what you enjoy and see if a passion emerges at some point. If not, no worries! If, though, you find that you don’t enjoy anything, or you’ve lost interest in all the things you used to enjoy, then talking with a counselor would be helpful.


The week before break always seems the most stressful, do you have any tips on overcoming the academic pressure?

Ugh. This is such an ingrained aspect of the student experience, both at Lakeside and elsewhere. One of the best ways to avoid feeling overwhelmed is to do some proactive planning. One of our favorite planning tools is the “backward timeline.” Identify what you need to do for each assignment, whether it’s a project, paper, or test. And be realistic in determining how much time you’ll need to spend on each step. Then, look up the due date and back up the tasks from there. You likely will need to start earlier than you think in order to avoid a backlog of items. Good luck with the next week before break!


Thoughts on how to deal with seasonal affective disorder? (Especially in places with no sun, like Seattle.)

Glad you asked! Seasonal Affective DIsorder is a type of depression related to seasonal shifts. Many people with Seasonal Affective Disorder notice more sadness, fatigue, and other depression symptoms in the fall and winter months. (Some people experience this in the summer, but it is less common.) Additionally, some people may not be diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, but still feel like winter brings about a lot of down feelings.

Making a list of preferred activities and coping strategies and creating a plan to do those things when you are feeling down can be very helpful, since Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression, both, can make it seem like you shouldn’t do the things that you know are good for your happiness. This also goes for supportive people — identify who your core people are, and make a plan to schedule time with them. If any of this feels especially hard, which it might, identify the easiest things for you to do and prioritize those. Sometimes, in low sunlight areas, a person’s Vitamin D level might be low. A simple blood test at the doctor can determine this. If it is low, a supplement may be recommended by your physician. 

It’s also worth your time to get natural light — it doesn’t need to be sunny per se, so any daylight can help. Even a light box (which you can buy in stores and online!) has been found to help treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder. 


Sort of funny but legit kind of serious: What if I am genuinely an existentialist and believe that nothing matters? How do I function?

Great question. You have to create your own meaning. And we’d invite you to consider the following: Do you experience joy? Laughter? Connection with close friends and family? It’s important that these things are present. If they aren’t, please talk to one of us. If they are part of your life, though, and you are an existentialist, we’d recommend letting these things just stand on their own as meaningful. And to take part in them just because you can.


If you’ve ever poured tea on a plant, you’ve essentially force-fed it water in which you’ve boiled the dead remains of its kind. This is, obviously, a highly pressing and extremely psychologically damaging matter. What do we do about this phenomenon?

Plants are also rooted in soil, which is dead organic matter. So, plants have a different experience with death than we do. Or, as King Mufasa says it, “Simba, when we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass, and so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life.”


As always, if you have any questions for the counselors or just want to talk feel free to stop by their offices in St. Nicks. As they like to say, no student will ever be turned away for wanting to chat with them.