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Student Counseling Services

What is counseling?

Counseling is a confidential, professional relationship that empowers students to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals by overcoming personal obstacles.

Why counseling?

College can be stressful and almost all students experience occasional difficulties that can throw them off track. Montana Western’s licensed counselors are non-judgmental, skilled listeners who help you clarify your own thoughts and feelings, gain insight into your behavior, and develop a plan to reach your goals.

Montana Western takes a progressive approach as more and more UMW students recognize the value of having their own counselor with which to troubleshoot problems. Typical problems include anxiety, depression, relationships, eating disorders, homesickness, sexual/gender identity concerns, sexual trauma, sleep difficulties, career choices, etc.

Who can receive counseling?

Confidential counseling is free to all students. Non-student partners can also be seen as a part of couples or family counseling.

When is counseling offered?

Counseling is offered year-round, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. You may ask to meet with Jerry or Heidi specifically. Emergencies will be seen upon walk-in.

How do I make an appointment?

To schedule an appointment:
Please call Student Affairs Associate, Cecelia Kuskie at (406) 683-7388.
Jerry Girard at (406) 683-7181,
Heidi Peterson at (406) 683-7180,

For an after-hour emergency, please call 911 or go to the hospital emergency room.

What if I’m a distance learning student?

eCounseling services are available for distance learning students or for on-campus students who are off campus for any reason. Contact either Heidi or Jerry at the information above to make an appointment or to find out more.

Where is campus counseling?

We are located in the Dean of Students Center at 528 Poindexter Street, across from the Student Union Building.


Meet The Counselors

Jerry Girard, LCPC, LAC
Director of Student Counseling

Jerry has been with Montana Western Student Counseling since January of 2010. Following 3 semesters as a counseling intern, he became a full time counselor in the Fall of 2011 and has been the Director of Student Counseling since 2016. Having previously been a high school teacher and coach for 13 years, Jerry finds being a college counselor a good fit personally and professionally. Jerry earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Minot State University in 1992. From the University of Great Falls, he earned a Master of Science in Addiction Counseling in 2008, and a Master of Science in Counseling in 2011.

Jerry is known as a warm and compassionate counselor who has an innate ability to establish rapport with students. He enjoys working with students to help them overcome emotional obstacles to reaching their personal and academic goals. In addition to mental health counseling, Jerry is a licensed addictions counselor who is capable of working with students to overcome their substance use issues, including tobacco use. Because of his background as a college athlete, Jerry also has an interest in working with university student-athletes in an effort to more effectively attain their athletic goals. Jerry is also a dynamic teacher and is often involved in classroom and health promotion activities on campus.

Jerry has lived in Dillon, MT with his wife Sherri and his three children Alicia, Zach, and Isaiah since 1999. When not working, Jerry enjoys spending time with his family, attending his children’s activities and athletic events and hanging out with his granddaughter Livy. He is a supporter of the arts and fancies himself an amateur scholar of classic American music. Jerry is also involved in various civic activities promoting mental health and the arts in the community of Dillon. In addition to being a counselor at The University of Montana Western, Jerry is also an adjunct professor at the University of Providence.


Heidi Peterson, LCPC
Student Counselor

It was a joy and an honor for me when I joined the Montana Western Student Counseling Team in August of 2017.

After receiving my BA in Psychology and Masters in Counseling at the University of Great Falls (now the University of Providence), my initial therapeutic work experience was with survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Later, I worked with students at the College of Great Falls MSU, and in a private practice setting. Trained as a mediator, I also facilitate conflict-resolution and communication workshops.

Engaging in counseling with college students is deeply meaningful, as together we explore opportunities for healing, growth, and self-understanding. When faced with challenges such as trauma, grief, relationships, depression, anxiety, and loneliness, we work on building resilience, self-care, and healthy coping strategies. My therapeutic style is based on Person-Centered, Mindfulness, and Existential models.

When not visiting with Montana Western students, I also serve as a part-time Instructor of Psychology for the University of Providence; volunteer with the Beaverhead County Mental Health Local Advisory Council, helping to coordinate the mental health portion of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training with local law enforcement and first responders; and have a small private practice here in Dillon. And, when not doing all of that, I enjoy spending time with loved ones, reading, cooking, knitting, traveling, and fishing!