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 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.  We reserve 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 which will occur during their first visit. We have walk-in hours for initial assessments between 10:00AM – 3:00PM from Monday through Friday. (During summer, walk-in hours for initial assessments are Monday-Thursday, 11AM-2PM).

When appropriate, students may be referred to short term services offered within the Counseling Center.  Our services include:

Due to the high demand for our services, the Counseling Center 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 that we address include:

Issues Commonly Referred to Services Outside the Counseling Center

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

  • A desire or apparent need to receive treatment more than once a week or for multiple semesters
  • 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 necessary information, to identify appropriate short-term treatment goals, and/or to comply with treatment recommendations
  • 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
  • Presence of an ongoing treatment relationship with another mental health provider
  • Treatment initiated to fulfill an academic/class requirement
  • Students who need specialized services NOT available through the Counseling Center 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
  • Students who exhibit inappropriate, harassing, menacing, threatening, and/or violent behaviors toward Counseling Center staff

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 with the Counseling Center, 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 Counseling Center 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 disqualification occurs, you may request for one of our clinicians to assist you in connecting with alternative treatment options within the Counseling Center (e.g., group therapy, specialized workshop series, relaxation and expressive arts resources, or case management), or locating a community provider. Even if you are disqualified from receiving some of our clinical services, you are still eligible for emergency mental health services (e.g., thoughts or plans to kill yourself, thoughts of seriously harming others, recent sexual assault).

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