What to Expect
If you haven’t tried counseling, you may wonder what it’s like.
What to Expect from Counseling
The Counseling Center’s trained and compassionate counselors work hard to help you get connected to services that can help provide the relief you’re seeking.
Stepped Care Model
The Counseling Center uses a stepped-care model. The goals of stepped care are to:
- Provide timely access to mental health services.
- Create individualized plans addressing the needs of each student.
- Find the balance between providing the best care options for each student and ensuring that there is still room in our system for the thousands of students served each year.
Some students prefer individual therapy, but there are limited options for that type of care. The Counseling Center offers other resources that are just as effective—and in some cases, more effective—and are available more quickly.
Step 1: Screening appointment
Depending on whether you’ve been to the Counseling Center before, and, if so, how long ago that was, you may be asked to fill out or update paperwork. When you’re finished, you’ll either meet with a clinician via our virtual walk-in system or schedule an appointment to complete the virtual screening process another day.
During the brief screening meeting, you’ll talk about your needs and goals, and learn about the services available through the stepped care model. The purpose of the screening is to assess your needs, check for any safety-related concerns, and identify the best resources to meet those needs.
After the screening meeting, a clinician will recommend appropriate services from our options in the following steps.
Step 2: Referral to on-campus and community supports and resources
The Counseling Center staff knows about a variety of resources and support services both on-campus and within the community.
Referrals may include student centers (such as the African American Cultural Center, LGBTQ Pride Center, Multicultural Student Affairs, the Women’s Center), Military and Veteran Services, Wellness and Recreation programs and/or wellness coaching services, and the University Tutorial Center and Campus Health Services, among many others.
Step 3: Self-help psychoeducation and practice
Counseling Center staff can send you to online resources that provide skills and education on a variety of mental health topics.
The Counseling Center website contains a variety of self-help resources as well as information on mental health (see Self-Help Resources). These are resources that you can access on your own time.
Step 4: Psychoeducation workshops and drop-ins
The Counseling Center has emotional wellness workshops that meet weekly, typically for three consecutive weeks. New workshops start every few weeks.
Each workshop session is approximately 50 – 60 minutes in length and is designed to teach a variety of skills to address your concerns. See current workshops.
There are also weekly drop-in options, which don’t require any sign-up or commitment. Learn more about drop-in spaces.
If you feel hesitant to pursue a workshop, it’s important to note that workshop facilitators respect your right to share only what you are comfortable sharing and never require you to share sensitive or personal information about yourself.
Step 5: Therapeutic consultation (single session)
If you would benefit from a focused consultation with a counselor, the Counseling Center offers this in the form of a single session. Single sessions are scheduled when you have a specific focus and ongoing therapy is not needed.
During this appointment, the focus is on your primary concern and working collaboratively to either make a plan or find a solution for the concern. The single session is a one-time meeting and may include referrals, resources, or other services as appropriate.
Step 6: Short-term support group
The Counseling Center offers an open group, Connect & Cope, where you can learn coping strategies and receive support from other students.
For this group in particular, you can choose how many sessions you attend, although attending several sessions consecutively is encouraged for increased effectiveness. This group is offered at peak times of the semester.
Step 7: Group therapy
Group therapy is the most effective treatment option for many concerns.
We offer a wide variety of groups, including theme-based groups (such as groups focused on perfectionism), identity-specific groups (such as women of color group), and general personal growth groups, as well.
These groups range in duration from a few weeks to the entire semester and students who join the groups are expected to commit to attending for the duration of the group.
Step 8: Individual short-term therapy
Short-term therapy at the Counseling Center is goal oriented, solution focused, and time limited. It may not be the appropriate recommendation for all concerns.
If you’re referred for individual therapy, you should be willing to engage in the therapeutic process (including regularly attending sessions and compliance with treatment recommendations). You and your clinician will work together to determine a plan to address the primary goal.
The frequency of meetings varies but typically does not occur every week. The average number of sessions is four to five. For some students, up to 12 sessions may be offered based on need, but it’s not guaranteed for all students who engage in individual therapy.
We may recommend that you complete other stepped-care services before being scheduled for individual therapy, based on what is most appropriate for your concerns. You may also receive referrals or other assistance connecting with off-campus treatment if it’s determined that having more frequent or longer-term services would best meet your needs.
Step 9: Off-campus referrals and case management services
Some students come to the Counseling Center seeking (or would be better served by) longer-term or more frequent (such as weekly) therapy services. If it’s determined you need longer-term services, we’ll provide you with appropriate referrals.
Additionally, the Counseling Center does not provide certain specialized services. Some examples include:
- Disability evaluation (for Disability Resource Office accommodations)
- Forensic evaluations/court-mandated or recommended treatment
- LD/ADHD assessment
- Emotional support animal documentation
- Inpatient mental health treatment
- Intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment
In some instances, clinicians can meet with students while working to get them connected to a community provider. The Counseling Center has two clinical case managers who are available to assist you in finding community providers who accept your insurance, are located in your area, and provide the appropriate service(s). The Counseling Center also has an extensive referral database available to assist you in finding an appropriate off-campus provider.
Your First Time Working with the Counseling Center
Visiting the counseling center for the first time may feel intimidating. Let’s walk through the steps.
How do I get to the Counseling Center?
The Counseling Center is located on the second floor of the Campus Health Center building at 2815 Cates Avenue.
There is limited parking available in the lot behind the building (the row closest to the trees beside Dan Allen is reserved for students) so you may want to consider taking the Wolfline Bus. If you do park behind the building, walk into the building and proceed to the front desk of Campus Health on the first floor. A front desk staff member will provide you with a parking pass. They may request proof of your appointment. Once they provide you with the parking pass, you’ll then walk back to your car and hang the parking pass from your rearview mirror so you don’t get a ticket.
What do I do when I arrive?
After you arrive at the Counseling Center on the second floor of the Campus Health Center building, you’ll check in at the front desk. If you haven’t completed forms online, you’ll be asked to sit at a computer and complete those forms.
The initial paperwork and meeting may take some time, so be prepared to spend up to an hour. There are four forms, and all are important to help the counselor understand you and your situation. Don’t get discouraged — it may take some time to fill out the forms, but there will be very little paperwork after the first session. If you’re having trouble understanding the forms, let the person at the front desk know and they’ll assist you.
Next, you’ll have a brief meeting (15 – 30 minutes) to talk about what you need from counseling. You can schedule the meeting for within the next week or visit virtually — whatever is convenient for you.
Some of the common concerns for which students seek counseling include relationship concerns, stress, anxiety, depression, academic help, and loneliness. No concern is too big or too small for the Counseling Center.
You can also fill out the forms and have the initial meeting online from the comfort of your residence if you prefer!
What happens next?
After the initial meeting, we’ll make some recommendations for you. You may be scheduled for one-on-one meetings with a counselor, or you may be offered a chance to meet in a group with other students who share common concerns. In addition, the counselor may suggest other resources for you to use, such as workshops, other offices on campus, or medication. You always have a choice — if you don’t want to use the suggested campus resources, the counselor can help you find off-campus counseling or support. Your decision to engage in counseling is entirely up to you.
What is individual counseling like?
The Counseling Center generally does short-term, solution-focused counseling. This means that most students attend counseling for between one and six sessions. You and your counselor will set goals at the beginning and work together to meet those goals.
Goals may include but are not limited to:
- Improving relationships
- Managing stress
- Reducing feelings of sadness
- Connecting with others
If you feel like you’re not getting what you need from counseling, talk to your counselor. Counselors are here to help and can adjust counseling to meet your needs. It won’t be considered rude if you ask for what you need from your counselor.
What are workshops like?
There are several different types of workshops. Some groups focus on skill building and you’ll learn specific skills: for mindfulness, for managing anxiety, and for time management, for example. Other workshops meet weekly and there are generally six to eight students who meet together to support one another.
A workshop may be recommended and is often the treatment of choice for presenting concerns. Going to the first workshop meeting can be intimidating, but you can choose to talk as much or as little as you want. Students who join a workshop almost always report being pleasantly surprised by the positive experience they had.
How long does counseling last?
Your counseling experience can be tailored to your needs. It’s not like an academic class that meets regularly, as the frequency and length of visits will depend on your specific situation.
You may come one or several times, throughout the same semester, or extending over several semesters. Many people attend a few sessions, discontinue treatment, then return months or even years later when another concern arises.