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For Parents

As a parent, you want the best for your student’s health—including mental health. NC State Counseling Center’s focus is just that: We cultivate emotional and psychological growth that will allow our students to be successful and flourish. Support your student’s mental health needs and increase your peace of mind.

Helping a Student in Need

The Counseling Center consults with parents who are concerned about unusual, problematic, or potentially harmful behavior of their student. If you’re concerned about your student’s mental health, please call us at 919.515.2423.

Counseling Center clinicians will explore your concerns and help you develop ideas for dealing effectively with the situation, which may include a CARES referral. Learn more about CARES referrals on the Prevention Services site. 

Counseling Center Services

The Counseling Center provides counseling to NC State students for personal, academic, or vocational problems. We also offer psychological assessment and psychiatric consultation. 

We primarily counsel students in the short term, referring them to other helping professionals or community agencies when appropriate. We assure strict confidentiality. Most services are free to currently enrolled students.

Learn more about our services

Information for Parents

According to federal law, without a student’s written authorization to release protected health information (PHI), Counseling Center staff cannot talk with parents about their student’s participation in counseling

Confidentiality is essential to the counseling relationships we establish with students. We adhere strictly to the confidentiality guidelines set forth in North Carolina law as well as those established by our certification and licensing boards.

We understand that parents often feel they should be able to know what their student discusses in counseling and that confidentiality requirements are often a source of frustration. 

We encourage parents who desire to know more about their child’s counseling experience to talk with their student. In general, students tend to respond positively to open, honest communication. 

Though at times students may choose to limit parental involvement, we find many appreciate parental concern, acceptance, and guidance amid the struggles they face at NC State.

The Counseling Center maintains professional contact with many mental health care professionals in the area. We work with students to identify therapists who both suit students’ concerns and accept students’ insurance. 
Students are welcome and encouraged to use our off-campus referral directory and/or meet with our case management team to get started.

If your student resists seeking help, it can make you feel helpless. You know your loved one needs help, and you desperately want to see them become less distressed. 

Continue to be supportive. Don’t attempt to lighten the situation by saying, “It will likely get better anyway.” If you feel it’s necessary to inform your student’s resident advisor (RA) or resident director (RD), also communicate directly with your student.

Under exceptional circumstances where a licensed health care provider judges a student to be at risk, either because they refer repeatedly to suicide or death or because they neglect their basic needs, parents can facilitate mandated treatment through the court system. Counseling staff can help facilitate this — please call us at 919.515.2423.

Thankfully, this is rarely needed as most students eventually understand they need help.

Suspended students may seek readmission under the rules outlined in the NC State Policy on Readmission of Former and Academically Suspended Undergraduate Degree Students. There are five primary options for the student to be readmitted.

Resources for Parents

  • Significant changes in eating, sleeping, grooming, spending, or other daily activities
  • Significant changes in performance or involvement in academics, sports, extracurricular or social activities
  • Acting unusually withdrawn, volatile, tearful, or odd
  • Acting out of character or differently than usual
  • Talking explicitly about hopelessness or suicide
  • Difficulty concentrating or carrying on normal conversation
  • Excessive dependence on others for company or support
  • Feeling out of control of emotions, thoughts, or behaviors

If you worry about your student’s moods or behaviors, or if your student has experienced a trauma or a loss, your suggestion to consider counseling can be very influential. 

Often your student will be receptive to the idea of counseling, in which case you can suggest that they call for an appointment.

You can still worry, but try to let your student make their own decisions. This means letting them understand their own consequences. It’ll be hard to watch if you think your student is making a bad choice, but allowing them to experience some setbacks will help teach them how to make good choices. The next time, the choice will probably be a better one. 

Support your student through disappointments. That may not mean bailing them out, but instead helping them do what it takes to resolve their own problems.

College brings intellectual stimulation and growth, career exploration and development, increased autonomy, self-exploration and discovery, and social involvement to your student.

Your student may forge a new identity or clarify values and beliefs. They may examine themselves, friends, and family carefully. As they explore and experiment, they may question or challenge the values you hold dear. 

The changes your student may experience can occur quickly, as they develop new peer relationships, gain competence in new areas, and learn to manage their lives independently. It’s important to recognize that every student will experience their own challenges and adjustments, just as every parent will have different expectations for and reactions to their student’s college experience.

Talk to them about adjustment to college as much as possible without belittling their feelings. Try to get to the root of the problem. They may experience a conflict with a roommate, have a heavy academic workload, miss a partner, or feel they don’t fit in. Encourage them to get involved in activities, and to seek help from an RA, counselor, or favorite professor.

Allowing them to come home often will remove them from the school routine, which will make it difficult for them to return to school. If possible, plan a visit about a month after they leave home. If your student is still having a hard time after a full semester, it can help to talk about what may be best for them. Consider all your options!

Alcohol use is a problem on many college campuses. Parents may sometimes feel out of touch with their student’s social habits in high school but may feel even further removed when their student leaves home. Talk to your student about the potential danger of alcohol abuse prior to their departure for college. 

Use the resources below to prepare yourself for a conversation about college drinking:

Both you and your student likely have mixed feelings about visits home. Excitement and trepidation are likely to top the list. 

Both you and your college student have changed since college began. Expecting house rules or interactions to remain unchanged during visits often results in conflict.

Suggested Reading


  • Barkin, C. (2007). When Your Kid Goes to College: A Parents’ Survival Guide. New York: Harper.
  • Johnson, H. and Schelhas-Miller, C. (2011). Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money, 2nd Edition. New York: St. Martin’s.
  • Lenz, E. (1985). Once My Child, Now My Friend. New York: Warner.
  • Levin, K.C. and Treeger, M.L. (2009). Letting Go: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the College Years, 5th Edition. New York: Harper.
  • Savage, M. (2009). You’re On Your Own (But I’m Here if You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years. New York: Fireside.

Online Resources

NC State University Parents and Family Services