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Counseling Center

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Counseling Center Frequently Asked Questions


Questions About Counseling

General Questions

Questions About Appointments

Questions About Our Services



Questions About Counseling

What is counseling?

Counseling is a collaborative effort between a clinician and a client to identify possible solutions, alternatives, and effective strategies to address current concerns and problems. It could involve learning and practicing new skills, exploring and processing powerful experiences and emotions, receiving support, adjusting to changes, and improving mental health, wellbeing, and self-care. Counseling can take place in individual, couples, or group settings.

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What is individual counseling?

Individual counseling is a personal opportunity to receive one-on-one support and experience growth during challenging times in life. Individual counseling can help you deal with many personal topics, no matter the severity. Often times, this is the image people get in their heads when they think of counseling or therapy. The Counseling Center operates under a brief model, however, so it may not be as extensive as traditional individual counseling. There are numerous ways to structure a counseling session, so make sure to talk with your clinician if you would like to shift the focus or make any adjustments.

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What is group counseling?

Group counseling provides a chance to share your concerns with professionals and peers, interact with other students interested in growth and self-understanding, and discuss your concerns with members who share similar issues and have similar goals. A group provides a supportive and challenging atmosphere for you to explore and discuss what is on your mind.  Groups are a very effective treatment, in some cases, the best form of treatment for particular individuals and particular concerns. We offer a variety of groups each semester around common identities, experiences, and/or symptoms.

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I'm scared/anxious/nervous about seeing a clinician...is that normal?

Absolutely. Expect to experience those feelings in a variety of situations (e.g. meeting your clinician for the first time, trying a new behavior, setting a new interpersonal boundary, sharing something you've never told anyone before, etc.). Whenever you try something new or something that feels like a risk, it is normal for there to be some anticipatory anxiety. Counseling often requires you to talk about uncomfortable, difficult, painful or embarrassing topics. However, experiencing that anxiety and still going through with what is important, is what builds confidence. Sometimes even sharing with your clinician that you are nervous, acknowledges the feeling, gets it out of the way, and gives you permission to move forward.

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What if I'm from a different culture/background/orientation/gender than my clinician?

It's normal to feel apprehensive about sharing personal things with someone. Sometimes visible differences in identities, or perceived differences, can make you wonder if your clinician will really understand you and your issues. Clinicians are trained to work effectively and competently with students from many different backgrounds, cultures, and identities. However, what is most important is that you develop a trusting counseling relationship where you feel safe, heard, and understood. Your clinician will work to understand your identities and how they impact your lived experience. Discuss any concerns or challenges with your clinician.

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Does getting counseling mean I'm "crazy" or "weak"?

Not at all. Everyone needs help and support throughout their life. Directly addressing challenges and concerns in your life is a sign of strength and maturity. Seeking assistance and guidance when you don’t understand something leads to insight and personal growth. It actually makes you more resilient. Think about it this way, people consult with professors and tutors about academic questions, physical trainers and coaches to improve physical performance, and physicians for medical concerns. Similarly, you should consult with a clinician if you experiencing mental health concerns (e.g. chronic stress, emotional concerns, interpersonal problems, concerning symptoms, etc).

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Does getting referred off-campus mean I'm too "crazy" to be seen at the Counseling Center?

Absolutely not. Our goal is to provide high quality clinical services to as many JMU students as possible. Unfortunately, due to high demand for services, we are not able to meet the unique needs of every student. Some students need a service or specialty we don't have, or they need a service beyond what we can provide. We want you to receive the most appropriate service that will best meet your needs. Sometimes that is here at the Counseling Center and other times it may result in a referral to a campus or community provider. Please review our explanation of who we see and why for more information.

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Isn't it better to solve my problems on my own?

If you are someone who prefers to be independent and self-reliant, going to counseling isn’t going to change that. Clinicians can’t solve your problems. The clinician will not provide simplistic advice or try and take control and tell you what to do. They are going to assist you in identifying and clarifying the issue, gaining insight and an alternative perspective, capitalizing on your existing strengths and talents, and providing information about additional options, alternatives, resources, skills and interventions. You are the expert on your experiences and the clinician is an expert on mental health issues. Together, the two of you can find the best way to address your current concerns and move you closer to the type of person you want to be and the life you want to lead.

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What if I'm out-of-town, abroad, or on break?  Can I still receive counseling at the Counseling Center?

Counseling Center clinicians do not provide clinical services via telephone or Skype. We can provide consultation services, but the most common recommendation would be to seek services where you are currently located. You can use an online database, like Psychology Today's Find a Therapist to find providers in the United States. You can also search our community clinician database for local providers. Additionally, you can contact your insurance provider to find in-network providers when you are back home or travelling. If you need further assistance, call the Counseling Center to speak with a clinican.

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What if I'm uncomfortable with my clinician? Or just not a good match?

It is normal to experience some level of initial discomfort when you meet with a new clinician. Be open and honest with them about your goals for treatment and what you want to address. Bring up any areas where you feel uncomfortable or misunderstood. That initial discomfort will likely go away after you get to know each other and/or after you address it with them. However, if you still feel like it is not a good fit, you can request a new clinician at the front desk. They will put you in touch with the Counseling Center Clinical Director, who can assist you in making the switch.

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General Questions

Who is seen at the Counseling Center?

We provide services to enrolled JMU students at no charge.

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Are there costs for any of the clinical services?

Our clinical services are free of charge for enrolled JMU students.

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Will my parents or anyone else know that I came to the Counseling Center?

The only times that we will ever release your information is when you give us permission or where it is mandated by law. Exceptions to confidentiality include reasonable suspicion of child or vulnerable adult abuse, imminent risk to your life or someone else’s life, parental notification if you meet criteria for involuntary hospitalization, or if a judge court orders your records to be released. Additionally, if you are under 18 and your parents request your treatment records, we have to disclose them.

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Where should I park?

Finding available parking can be challenging. Please factor that into your travel plan so that you arrive on time for your appointment. The Mason Street parking deck is the most convenient. However, there are other options. You can find out more information about directions on our Driving Directions page, and you can find information about additional parking on campus through this parking map.

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Can I get a letter for my professor?

You should discuss this request with your provider.

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Who are the counselors at the Counseling Center?

Senior clinical staff members are licensed or license-eligible in the Commonwealth of Virginia as clinical psychologists or professional counselors. In addition to the senior permanent staff, our staff includes doctoral interns, post-doctoral residents, masters level externs and residents, and masters and doctoral level practicum students.

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Questions About Appointments

Can I be seen today?

Yes! Your first session will be an Initial Assessment, which you need to have before we can refer you to any of our clinical services. We have walk-in hours for these assessments Monday - Friday, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM. Students experiencing a mental health emergency can be seen Monday - Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, typically within 30 minutes of checking in at the front desk.

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What can I expect during my first visit?

The entire process takes approximately 60-90 minutes, depending on how busy we are. That includes the time you need to check-in, complete the paperwork, and the time needed for the actual initial assessment. You will meet with a clinician to discuss your concerns, and they'll ask you some questions related to your history and what prompted you to come in. You will likely receive a referral at the end of that appointment. The referral could be to a Counseling Center service, to another campus resource, or to a Harrisonburg community provider. Our reasons for various referrals can be seen on our Who We See And Why page.

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Do you have session limits?

There are no session limits. However, in order to meet clinical demand, the Counseling Center works from a short-term treatment model and so most of our clients are seen between 3-5 sessions.

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Can I make an appointment for my friend or my child?

There is no need to call to make an appointment. We have walk-in hours for initial assessments Monday - Friday, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM. Make sure to check out or tips for referring someone to counseling.

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If the university is closed for snow, is my appointment cancelled?

If the university is closed, your appointment is cancelled. If you were scheduled for your first appointment, the front desk will call you to reschedule. If you are already working with one of our counselors, email or call them to reschedule.

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Questions About Our Services

Can I get a refill of my medication?

If you are seen by a Counseling Center psychiatric provider, call our front desk at 540-568-6552 to request a refill. If you see a provider back home or in the community, you’ll need to contact them for the refill.

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Do you prescribe ADHD medication?

Counseling Center psychiatric providers do not prescribe ADHD medication. You will need to become established with an off-campus provider.

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Do you do any testing for ADHD or learning disabilities?

We do not provide ADHD or learning disability assessments. You can obtain a free on-campus screening at Office of Disability Services or schedule a thorough assessment, which is needed for accommodation documentation from a local provider.

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Can I see the therapy dogs?

The therapy dogs are available for goal-oriented animal assisted therapy and outreach events on campus. They are not available for unscheduled visitation in the CC in other capacities.

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Can I use the Oasis/Studio?

The self-care spaces are available to all students, faculty and staff members. Before using these spaces, please come to the front desk to sign in with your JACard and watch a short orientation video. Please note that use of The Oasis will be limited to 2-hours per day.

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