Questions About 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

Counseling Center clinical services are primarily provided in-person at the Counseling Center.

For students located:

Out of town (in the US)
  • Connect with a provider where you are currently located. Resources that can assist you with finding a local provider include:
  • Access FREE virtual mental health services through JMU's partnership with TimelyCare (i.e., TalkNow, individual counseling, etc.). Use your student email address to sign in at:
Abroad (outside of the US)
  • Connect with provider(s) where you are currently located
  • TimelyCare's TalkNow services are also available,

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.

General Questions

We provide services to enrolled JMU students at no charge.

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

Your confidentiality is important 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, substantial likelihood that you will cause serious physical harm to yourself or another person unless protective measures are taken (in these cases, Virginia law mandates that the parents of dependent students must be notified of the situation), 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.

If you have experienced suicidal thoughts, recently and/or in the past, it is important to discuss them with staff when visiting the Counseling Center to ensure that the services provided fit with what you are needing. Reporting that you experience suicidal thought(s) in and of itself does not automatically mean that parents are notified. In fact, the vast majority of situations where students discuss suicidal thoughts do not require that information be shared with parents and/or individuals outside of the Center. Discussing what you are experiencing accurately, openly, and honestly allows Counseling Center staff to offer the support and resource recommendations that may best meet your needs.

Finding available parking can be challenging. Please factor that into your travel plan so that you arrive on time for your appointment.

The Grace Street parking deck is the most convenient choice, but often very full depending on the time and day of the week. However, there are alternatives. We have gathered the most commonly used options for parking as well as driving directions, and you can find information about additional parking from the campus map.

You should discuss this request with your provider.

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.

Questions About Appointments

Yes! Your first session will be an Initial Appointment, 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 (During Summer: Monday - Thursday 11 AM - 2 PM). Students experiencing a mental health emergency can be seen Monday - Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM (During Summer: Monday - Thursday 8 AM - 4:30 PM & Friday 8 AM - 11:30 AM), typically within 30 minutes of checking in at the front desk.

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.

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.

There is no need to call to make an appointment. We have walk-in hours for initial appointments Monday - Friday, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM (Summer: Monday - Thursday, 11 AM - 2:00 PM). Make sure to check out or tips for referring someone to counseling.

If JMU is closed, the Counseling Center is closed and all appointments are 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 clinicians, they will contact you to reschedule.

Similarly, if JMU announces a delayed opening (e.g. 10am) the Counseling Center is closed prior to that time and all appointments are cancelled. All appointments following the official University opening time remain as scheduled.

If you are experiencing a mental health emergency (e.g. suicidal, homicidal thoughts or actions, sexual assault or other significant trauma) when the Center is closed, please call 540-568-6552 and select "Option 1" to connect to the after-hours crisis line.

Questions About Our Services

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.

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

We do not provide ADHD or learning disability assessments. You can obtain a free on-campus screening at Office of Disability Services (ODS). This screening does not yield a diagnosis, rather it provides referrals to on-campus and off-campus resources. You are encouraged to schedule a comprehensive assessment with a provider of your choice. The results of an assessment may serve as accommodation documentation for ODS should you decide to apply for accommodations. ODS invites you to call (540-568-6705) to make an appointment to discuss your specific needs.

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 Counseling Center in other capacities.

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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