College life is exciting, challenging and rewarding. The years you spend at USAO will be some of the busiest you have known and during this time you will be making decisions that will affect the rest of your life.
The life of a USAO student is not always easy. Sometimes you might feel overwhelmed with academic, career, relationship, family and other concerns. If you are feeling confused, overwhelmed, stressed, anxious or not even sure how you feel, you are not alone. We want to help you.
The USAO Counseling Office is staffed by licensed mental health professionals who provide individual counseling for personal, social, family and academic concerns. Our goal is to provide services and activities that promote the development of healthy lifestyles and the acquisition of problem-solving and decision-making skills.
There are many reasons that people enter counseling. Often people come in saying that they are overwhelmed and stressed due to various life circumstances. Sometimes they have had recent or past life traumas, such as abuse, loss or illness. Many times they begin therapy following a crisis, something that has turned their world upside down, like the addiction of a loved one, adultery, or witnessing a violent incident. It could be a feeling of aloneness and just wanting someone to listen and care.
In addition, people may begin therapy because of symptoms that they are experiencing, which they want to understand or get relief from. Here are some of the symptoms that could indicate a need to seek help:
- depression or intense sadness
- frequent irritability
- persistent feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness
- low self esteem
- poor concentration
- changes in sleeping or appetite
- decreased motivation or interest in life
- thoughts of suicide or occurrence of self injury
- angry outbursts
- behavior changes noticed by yourself or others
- panic attacks
- significant difficulty leaving the house or completing everyday tasks
- intense fears or phobias
- excessive worrying
- nightmares or flashbacks of traumatic events
There may be many other issues, unique to the individual, for which a person might seek counseling. If you are troubled by something and want to talk about it, no problem is "too small" to deserve care and attention.
In general, it's a good idea to consider seeing a counselor if your difficulties persist for an extended period of time, and/or if you experience symptoms that interfere with your daily activities.
Counseling focuses on helping students function and develop in the stimulating and stressful environment of college and can assist with a variety of concerns. Our services are confidential, FREE, and are available to currently enrolled students. Office hours are 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.
Students can meet one-on-one with a counselor to talk about their concerns, explore related thoughts and feelings, identify personal resources, and learn new skills. For some students, one conversation is all they need to make things better, while others may return for several appointments. When it appears that a student's needs would be best met by an off-campus agency, counselors also provide referrals.
A variety of different types of workshops is offered throughout the year to further overall development in such areas as self-esteem, healthy relationships and time management.
Beyond counseling services, the counseling center also offers consultations assisting a concerned other (for example, parent, faculty member, roommate) in how to respond to a student with apparent mental health concerns, including, when appropriate, how to sensitively suggest the student seek professional services.
Counseling services are for any current USAO student. Anyone can refer a student for services. Faculty and Staff can make referrals or students can refer one another. All services are confidential; therefore, even if a staff or faculty makes a referral they will not be provided feedback whether a student is getting services unless the student wants them to.
Anyone who wants to refer a student should ask the student to call and schedule an appointment themselves. Appointments are not typically made for a student unless there is a safety issue.
The counseling center is a part of Student Services department which is responsible for housing, career services, counseling services, disability services, health services, orientation, recreation, student development and security.
REFERRALS FOR PRIVATE THERAPY
If concerns exceed the scope of the Counseling Center’s short term counseling focus, your counselor will refer you to private therapy or other appropriate community resources. The cost of such therapy is not included in your student fees. Student health insurance, or other comparable health insurance plans, may reimburse part of the cost of private therapy. Your counselor will discuss additional possible options to help defray costs if a referral for private therapy is made.
Your first appointment will provide you with an opportunity to talk confidentially about your immediate concerns. The counselor will talk with you about some of the reasons you scheduled the appointment and will evaluate what services or resources will be most helpful for you. Some students find that talking with a counselor once is sufficient to resolve the immediate concern. If further services would be beneficial, these will be discussed and a recommendation will be made by the counselor. These additional services may include resources offered by the Counseling Center or referral to another community resource.
Federal and state laws along with professional ethical standards prohibit the disclosure of any information you provide us unless we have your proper written consent. Thus, if a USAO official or your parents or anyone else should inquire about your receiving services here, we would not be able to disclose any information about you without your written permission. All consultations are confidential. No information about the students we see or the concerns they discuss is entered on an official college record or released to others without the student's prior written consent. Therefore, there will be no disciplinary response to anything shared in counseling. Having said that, there are a few exceptions to the confidentiality laws and standards, as follows:
- If your counselor believes that you or someone else is in clear and imminent danger of harm, your counselor is legally obligated to inform proper authorities and others in order to prevent the harm from occurring. This information would be disclosed only to appropriate professional workers, necessary university and public authorities, a potential victim of aggression or the client's family.
- If you provide information indicating that someone under 18 years old is being abused, your counselor is legally required to notify proper authorities.
- In rare cases, a court may order your counselor to disclose information about you.
- If you are under 17 ½ years old, your parents or legal guardian may have access to your treatment records.
- When the client requires hospitalization for severe psychological problems, suicidal ideations or attempt, or other life threatening issues. In these instances, the counselor must notify the client's parents or spouse, the Dean of Students, and, if the client lives in a residence hall, appropriate members of the residence life staff. Only relevant, limited and necessary information will be shared with these individuals, who are always notified whenever a serious medical emergency arises with a student.
In the preceding situations, the counselor will, whenever possible, first discuss the disclosure of information with the client. The counselor will provide reasons why the disclosure is appropriate and necessary and will attempt to secure the client's permission to release information. The client and counselor may jointly be involved in sharing the information. However, should the client fail to give permission, the counselor will proceed to release the information without the client's consent. In some emergency situations, there may not be an opportunity to discuss disclosure of information with the client prior to the actual disclosure
The counselor follows the professional ethics, laws, and guidelines that govern our
discipline. When mental health issues warrant professional attention beyond that which
the USAO Counseling Center can reasonably provide, the counselor will assist students
with appropriate off-campus referrals.
Please feel free to discuss any questions you may have regarding our services or policies with your counselor.
As a client, you have the following rights:
- To ask questions about your counselor's professional qualifications and experience.
- To be an active participant in decisions about counseling goals and strategies and to refuse any goals or strategies with which you do not agree.
- To review records in your file, together with your counselor. (Please note that only the counselor has access to your file, which contains notes by your counselor about the work you are doing together. Files are kept in a locked file cabinet and remain in the office at all times.)
- To have your counseling experiences remain confidential within certain limits. (see policy on confidentiality)
- To end counseling at any time.
Our lives involve opportunity, excitement and stress. While experiencing everyday ups and downs is a part of life, some people encounter difficulties that interfere with their functioning. You may have noticed a friend or family member dealing with problems and wondered "What can I do to help?"
One of the best ways you can provide support for your friend or family member is simply by being willing to listen in an open and non-judgmental way. You can also help by spending time with your friend. Seeing a movie together, meeting for lunch - whatever activities you and your friend typically enjoy can provide an emotional boost during times of difficulty.
It is also important to recognize the limits of what help you can provide. In some cases, a friend may be experiencing distress that calls for professional help.
Some of these signs of distress include:
- Persistently depressed, irritable, or anxious mood
- Changes in behavior - e.g. becoming more quiet or withdrawn
- Changes in appetite, and/or weight changes
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Changes in work or school - e.g. low motivation, performance, interest
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Mention of suicidal ideation
WHAT TO DO IF YOU EXPECT A FRIEND MAY BE SUICIDAL?
- Don't assume the situation will take care of itself.
- Don't leave the person alone.
- Don't be sworn to secrecy.
- Don't challenge or dare.
- Don't argue or debate moral issues.
Be willing to listen. One of the most important things for people when they are in crisis is having someone listen and really hear what they are saying. Even if professional help is needed, your friend will be more willing to seek help if you have listened to him or her.
Voice your concern. Take the initiative to ask what is troubling your friend and attempt to overcome reluctance to talk about it.
Take it seriously. Do not dismiss or undervalue what someone shares. Do not assume the situation will take care of itself. 75% of all people who commit suicide give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member. All suicidal talk should be taken seriously.
Ask if the person has a specific plan for committing suicide and how far he or she has gone towards carrying it out. It is a myth that asking about suicide will cause a person to think about or commit suicide.
Let them know you care. Reassure your friend that he or she is not alone. Explain that although powerful, suicidal feelings are temporary. Problems can be solved. Depression can get better, but suicide is permanent.
Ask about alternatives to suicide. Let your friend know that depressed feelings can change. Explore solutions to their problems. Help the client to generate specific, definite plans (e.g., staying overnight with a friend, calling parent, tomorrow we will go to the counseling center together).
Get professional help. Your friend opened up to you because they trust you and have confidence in you. Encourage them to trust your decision to involve a professional. They may be more likely to seek help if you provide support and accompany him or her to the Counseling Center.
The USAO Counseling Center is located on the 3 rd floor of the Student Center. If it is after business hours, contact the campus security. You do not need to handle this alone. There are professionals available to you who are trained to handle situations like this.
You may also take your friend to a local hospital emergency room. You may contact police for assistance.
If for any reason you are unsure, uncomfortable or unable to take action , contact a responsible person with whom to share your concerns (e.g., counselor, parent, coach, faculty member, police, staff person). If all else fails, call 911. It is better to have an angry friend than a dead one.
Address your own needs. Being in a helping role can be stressful, draining, and sometimes frustrating. Be sure that your own needs are being met. It may be useful to talk to someone or receive individual counseling to address your experience and reactions.