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About the Counseling Center

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Who We See and Why

All organizations must establish guidelines for and make decisions about the clientele that they serve and the range of services that they provide.  Such guidelines and decisions are typically founded on considerations that include the mission of the organization, the knowledge, skills, and experience of its members, and resources available to accomplish the unit’s objectives.

The Counseling Center (CC) actively strives to maximize the positive impact of the human and financial resources available to us and meet as many of our students’ mental health needs as we can.  As professionals in the field of collegiate mental health, our clinical staff is committed to offering every student an assessment to determine the best treatment option.  The CC reserves the right to determine which students will receive treatment through our services and which students will be referred to other resources that might better meet their needs.  All such clinical decisions ultimately rest within our professional discretion.  Assistance is provided, as requested or needed, to help students secure referral options outside of our Center.

Accessing Services

All students are eligible for an initial assessment and recommendation. We have walk-in assessment hours between 10:00AM – 3:00PM from Monday through Friday. For more information visit our Your First Visit page.

When appropriate, students may be referred to short term services offered within the CC.  Services include: Specialized Treatment Programs, Group Therapy, Workshops, Couples Therapy, or Individual Therapy. Due to the high demand for our services, the CC operates according to a short-term treatment model in which the student and the clinician collaboratively identify and address the student’s primary concerns within a limited number of sessions.  Consistent with the national average at university counseling centers, students typically average 3-5 sessions during a course of individual counseling. Common presenting concerns addressed in the CC include:

  • Generalized and social anxiety
  • Mild to moderate depression
  • Relationship issues (romantic relationship difficulties, roommate problems, family issues, loneliness, anger, guilt)
  • Academic concerns (performance anxiety, perfectionism, underachievement, low motivation)
  • Developmental issues (adjustment to college, life transitions, spiritual concerns, identity development (including transgender))
  • Low self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Grief and loss
  • Body image and mild to moderate eating and exercise concerns
  • Uncomplicated trauma (i.e. trauma confined to a single traumatic incident in adulthood)

Issues Commonly Referred to Community Resources

Students whose needs cannot be accommodated through short-term services or who require a particular type of expertise not found in the CC are provided with a referral to a clinician in the Harrisonburg community. The CC provides referral services during the initial appointment or as these factors become apparent during the course of services.  To assist in promoting high quality clinical care decisions, the following are considered in determining when services outside of the CC may be a better fit for a student’s needs:

  • A desire or apparent need to be seen more than once a week or for long-term therapy
  • Absence of requisite coping mechanisms to manage reactions to normal daily stressors in appropriate ways
  • Presence of multiple and/or chronic issues that significantly impact mental or emotional functioning
  • Inability or unwillingness to provide the necessary information to thoroughly assess symptoms
  • Chronic suicidality and/or self-injury behaviors; history of repeated suicide attempts and/or hospitalizations
  • Psychotic Symptoms
  • Students who are exclusively interested in psychiatric services (i.e. the provision of psychotropic medication) and are not seeking concurrent counseling assistance
  • Students who need specialized services NOT available through the CC as indicated by:
    • Presence of a significant or long-standing eating disorder
    • Presence of significant drug and/or alcohol problems
    • Requests for medication to address issues of attention/focus and hyperactivity
    • Request for psychological evaluation to assess for the presence of learning disorders, to grant housing accommodations (e.g. single room, emotional support animal), or for the purpose of employment clearance or other nonacademic purpose
    • Services to fulfill requirements for pre-adjudication and/or court-mandated mental health treatment or assessment.

The general guidelines listed above are only intended to serve as a guide. The nature and complexity of presenting concerns and the broader context are considered in making the appropriate treatment recommendation(s).

Attendance Requirements and Disqualification

When you schedule services at the CC, time is reserved on a clinician's schedule for your appointment. Missed and canceled appointments prevent limited staff time from being offered to other students in need.The CC may terminate individual and psychiatric services for 365 days when two consecutive appointments are missed (i.e., not canceled 24 hours prior to the session) during a semester or three consecutive appointments are missed over any time frame. Services may also be terminated if an excessive number of sessions are canceled. If a discqualification occurs, you may request a CC clinician to assist you in connecting with alternative treatment options within the Counseling Center (e.g. group therapy, treatment programs, relaxation and expressive arts resources, or case management), or locating a community provider. Even if you are disqualified from receiving CC clinical services, you are still eligible for emergency mental health services (e.g., suicidal or homicidal thoughts or actions, a recent sexual assault, death of a significant person, etc.).