By Annalisa Purser, communications specialist, University Marketing and Communications
The University of Utah is dedicated to helping students succeed by providing resources to assist them in all aspects of their lives. The University Counseling Center is one such service and offers confidential counseling and support to students (and staff and faculty) to help them manage the complexities of life while also attending or working at the university. We sat down with Susan Chamberlain, licensed staff psychologist and outreach coordinator for the center, to learn more.
Q: How do people know if they should seek counseling?
When most of us start college, we have all of these hopes for how it will be. We look forward to meeting new people, learning new things and becoming the awesome people we know we can be. College can definitely be amazing, but most of us also face struggles that we never imagined. Even the most prepared students can run into unexpected problems or can struggle with old issues in new ways. These problems can lead to all sorts of difficulties: Emotional, interpersonal, behavioral, academic, physical or spiritual. When these difficulties feel like too much to handle, the University of Utah Counseling Center is there to help.
Sometimes we think our problems aren’t “bad enough” to come in for therapy — we may compare our problems to what we imagine others are experiencing and decide that we are not worthy of help. But doing some preventive care at the earlier stages of symptoms can accelerate the healing process and help you to reach your goals.
Q: What types of services does the Counseling Center offer?
The Counseling Center provides confidential mental health services for students through individual, couples and group counseling, as well as other services, such as psychiatry and the Mindfulness Clinic.
Individual therapy means that you meet one-on-one with a therapist and collaborate to set goals.
Couples counseling involves intimate partners who may be experiencing conflict in their relationship. Only one member of the partnership needs to be a student, and they do not need to be married. These services are available to all intimate partnerships, including heterosexual, polyamourous, same-sex, etc.
Group counseling describes a setting in which several people (typically four to eight) meet together for therapy. These groups are led by one or two facilitators (therapists from the center), and the groups vary depending on the topic and/or the population involved. For example, we have groups for students in graduate school, a group for people who identify as LGBTQ and a group for people who struggle with perfectionism. There are a number of different therapy groups, as well as a support group for people who are grieving the death of a loved one and another support group for people who have questions about faith, belief and spirituality. A full list of the groups that we offer is available on our website. You don’t need a referral to attend, but you may need to first meet with the group’s facilitator in order to find out if the group is a good fit.
Q: Who can use the Counseling Center?
Any graduate student, or any undergraduate student enrolled in six or more credit hours can participate in any of our programs, including individual, couples or group therapy and psychiatry. Any enrolled student or staff member can participate in our Mindfulness Clinic services, such as drop-in meditations and our Feel Better Now workshops, regardless of credit hours. All students and staff are also welcome in our support groups: Sharing and Caring (a group for people who have experienced the death of a loved one) and Faith + Doubt (a support group for people with questions related to their spirituality). The Mindfulness Clinic and our support groups are free — you just need to register for them online.
Part of our mission statement is to “advocate a philosophy of acceptance, compassion and support for those we serve. . . We aspire to respect cultural, individual and role differences as we continually work toward creating a safe and affirming climate for individuals of all ages, cultures, ethnicities, genders, gender identities, languages, mental and physical abilities, national origins, races, religions, sexual orientations, sizes and socioeconomic statuses.” We hope that all students, no matter their intersecting identities, will feel welcomed and supported at the Counseling Center.
Q: Who provides the counseling services?
Our permanent clinical staff consists of licensed psychologists and social workers. We also have advanced graduate students in social work and psychology who, under the supervision of licensed clinicians, provide individual, couples and group counseling. As a nationally accredited training site, we take training very seriously and are grateful for the hard work of our trainees.
Q: How much does it cost to use the center?
Costs vary depending on the service being used. The center does not accept insurance, which helps to keep costs down. If finances are tight, and you can’t afford our fees, talk to your counselor, and we can make arrangements. Below is a chart with our services listed, along with their fees:
|Individual Sessions||$12||12 sessions/year|
|Couples Sessions||$30||12 sessions/year|
|Group Therapy Sessions||$5||Unlimited sessions|
|Support Groups||Free||Unlimited sessions; register online|
|Feel Better Now! Workshop||Free||Register online; attend as many as you like|
|Drop-In Meditation||Free||Just show up|
Q: How many times can a person visit the center?
The number of sessions you can attend varies depending on the service you use. As students, you have 12 sessions of individual or couples therapy per year, but group sessions are unlimited. Please keep in mind that if you are seeking therapy, you must choose either individual, group or couples counseling because we are not currently able to support multiple modalities for one client.
Q: Will what I say be kept confidential?
Our counselors are all bound by the rule of confidentiality. This means that, for the most part, what you say in session will be kept confidential. Our professional counselors, along with those in the Women’s Resource Center, are not mandated to report anything to the Office of the Dean of Students (for example, a reported assault).
However, there are some legal exceptions to this rule which would require reporting. Some of these exceptions include:
- An imminent threat of danger to self or others.
- Reported abuse, neglect or exploitation of a child or dependent adult.
- An unreported diagnosis of certain communicable diseases.
- A court-order.
There are other exceptions to the rule, so if you have any questions be sure to ask about the limits of confidentiality when you meet with a therapist.
Q: How long does a student have to wait to see a counselor? What if someone needs to see a counselor sooner?
In order to access our counseling services, you would first meet with one of our intake therapists for about 30 to 40 minutes. During this appointment, an intake counselor will find out what your needs and goals are for therapy, and then they will make recommendations based on what you discuss. To schedule an intake appointment, you can call us at 801-581-6826 or stop by our office in room 426 of the Student Services Building. We work very hard to get clients scheduled as quickly as possible. There is also a counselor available during business hours for students experiencing a mental health emergency.
Q: What can students do to practice good mental health throughout the year?
Maintaining good mental health requires some intentional practice, just like physical health. With this in mind, we started a Mindfulness Clinic several years ago. Mindfulness is kind of a buzzword in mental health circles. One definition that we like comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn, who stated that “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Research shows that mindfulness can decrease anxiety and depression and increase feelings of peace and well-being.
One service our Mindfulness Clinic currently offers is free drop-in meditation sessions. You don’t need to register: Just come by Room 334 of the Student Services Building on Mondays at 12:30 p.m.
Our clinic also offers free workshops called “Feel Better Now: Skills for Managing Anxiety and Sadness.” These workshops teach practical skills to aid in increasing focus, managing anxiety and decreasing sadness. Any Mindfulness Clinic service is open to students, faculty and staff, and you don’t need to be a client of the Counseling Center to register.
Q: What happens when I graduate?
If you have ongoing needs for care after you graduate, we will help you to find treatment resources as best we can. Such help may include providing referrals to services in the community or helping you to navigate your insurance’s website to find a provider. When the time comes for you to leave the U, we want you to feel empowered to seek out and access the treatment that you need, and we will be here to help you to do that.