What kind of concerns do students bring to the center?
Students come to the Counseling Center with a variety of concerns. Many people come seeking support about relationship problems, stress, assertiveness, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, body image problems, cultural and identity issues, or eating disorders. Some students seek counseling in response to a traumatic event in their lives, such as the death of a loved one, rape or sexual abuse, or thoughts of suicide. Still other students may use our services for concerns that have to do with academic issues such as time management, low motivation, conflicts with an instructor, anxiety around test-taking, speech or performance anxiety, or math anxiety. The best way to find out whether counseling is a good option for addressing your concerns is to schedule an assessment at the Counseling Center.
How much does counseling cost?
The services of the Counseling Center are free. Students enrolled for 6 or more credits are eligible to use our services. Students enrolled for fewer than 6 credits may be eligible for counseling as long as they have paid the Health Services fee for the current quarter.
What will my first session be like?
When you decide that you are interested in pursuing counseling, you will first be scheduled for an assessment. These initial appointments usually last about 30 minutes. Prior to meeting with a therapist you will be asked to answer some standardized screening questions. During your assessment, your assessing therapist will ask you to talk a little bit about your concerns and will ask questions to try to understand your situation and make a good treatment recommendation. At the end of your assessment or soon afterward, your assessing therapist will suggest one of several options as a next step. They may suggest that you begin brief individual therapy at the Counseling Center. They may recommend that you participate in a group or workshop at the Counseling Center. Or they may talk with you about options for longer-term off-campus counseling or evaluation. If your assessing therapist believes that you will benefit most from off-campus services, you will be connected with our case manager. Our case manager will help you find an off-campus counselor who takes your insurance. The case manager also has resources for students with Washington State insurance or no insurance.
What happens in counseling?
During brief counseling appointments at the Counseling Center, your therapist will invite you to talk about your problems and your strengths. Your therapist will try to get to know you enough to earn your trust and provide helpful interventions and suggestions. Therapists at the Counseling Center work from a variety of orientations and modalities, and you are welcome to ask questions of them as you begin your work together.
Although a good deal of learning at Western occurs in the classroom, in counseling, the learning is about yourself, who you are, where you are going with your life, how to manage emotions, and/or how to resolve or cope with internal or interpersonal conflicts.
In our Center, we provide counseling using time-effective approaches. Most students complete counseling within one to four sessions. We are not able to provide long-term, individual psychotherapy. Because of our time-limited approach, your role as a client is to join your counselor in identifying the most central, specific problem or problems you wish to resolve, and then actively engage in the process of working on them. Our goal is to see these problems resolved or brought under control so that you can move forward in your life.
Is there a limit on how much counseling I can receive?
Many factors affect what level of service a student receives through the Counseling Center, including the urgency of your situation, your specific concerns, and the availability of counselors and other resources. When individual counseling would appear to be helpful, your counselor will focus on brief, time-effective strategies for identifying and achieving personal goals. After one or more sessions of individual counseling, many issues can be further addressed through counseling workshops and groups. For students desiring longer-term individual counseling, a different counseling approach, or a specialization not available at the Counseling Center, we can assist with appropriate referrals in the community.
Students have unlimited use of psychoeducational classes, workshops, and counseling groups offered by the Counseling Center. While students may express some initial hesitancy about attending, group counseling can offer exceptional opportunities for support and exploration.
How do I cancel or reschedule an appointment?
If you have to miss your appointment, it is very important for you to cancel it 24 hours in advance if at all possible. If you cancel within less than 24 hours, it is less likely that we can recover that appointment hour by offering it to another person in need of our services. Counseling appointments are a precious commodity—please help keep our services efficient and timely for all students. However, we understand that if you are ill, advance cancelations are not always possible. Please reschedule your appointment by phone as soon as you know you will not be attending.
What rights do I have as a client?
Counseling is voluntary and you have the right to refuse counseling or to leave at any time. You may ask to change counselors at any time. Your counselor will be happy to discuss with you his or her theoretical or therapeutic orientation and the proposed treatment within our brief counseling model, including any risks, requirements, or expectations that might exist. You have the right to receive care which is nondiscriminatory. You have the right to confidentiality.
We keep a record of the services we provide you. You may ask to see and receive a copy of that record. You also may ask us to correct that record if you find it to be in error. We will not disclose your record to others unless you direct us to do so, or unless the law authorizes or compels us to do so (see below). You may see your record or get more information about it by asking your counselor or the Director of the Counseling Center.
We are accountable for our work with you. If you have concerns about your counselor or the course of counseling, we encourage you to discuss them first with your counselor. You also may talk about them with the Director of the Counseling Center, the Assistant Vice President or Vice President of the Division of Enrollment and Student Affairs. You may contact the licensing board of the state, the Department of Health, or the ethics boards of any of a variety of professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association or the American Counseling Association.
Is my information confidential? Will my parents, professors or others have access to my records?
The Counseling Center has a strong commitment to each client's right of confidentiality. Strict confidentiality is maintained except under certain very specific circumstances. Information may be shared between counselors on the staff or with other health care providers within Counseling, Health and Wellness Services and with the campus dietitian when needed to provide the best coordinated care.
A legal obligation to release information about you or your counseling occurs when your counselor believes that you are at serious risk of harming yourself or someone else, when a counselor has reason to believe that abuse or neglect of a child or dependent adult may be occurring, or when a court of law compels a release of information by subpoena. Otherwise, information can be released only if you sign a form which authorizes a release and specifies what information is to be released.
In addition to the ethical and legal obligation of counselors to protect confidentiality, special care is given to instructing all our staff in the requirements of confidentiality. Persons who work in the Counseling Center in any of these capacities may not reveal the name of a client who has come to the Counseling Center, nor discuss that client's presence in any way that could cause the client's identity to be discerned.
Can I get special academic accommodations if I have test anxiety or ADHD?
Students with academic accommodation needs must initiate a request for services through disAbility Resources for Students. Students with disabilities are required, by law, to provide written documentation of their disability (from a qualified professional) before services can be provided. While “test anxiety” is not something for which an accommodation is usually given, we encourage students who experience anxiety in testing and other performance situations to seek help through the Counseling Center. Through workshops, self-help materials, and possibly a session with a counselor, students can develop strategies and skills for keeping themselves calm and clear-thinking in these potentially stressful situations.
The Counseling Center does not provide evaluations for ADHD or other learning disabilities, although we may be able to suggest behavioral interventions and strategies for improving focus and time management. Our case manager can provide referrals for obtaining off-campus evaluation and treatment for these and other diagnoses.
I am interested in medication for depression or ADHD. Can the Counseling Center help me with this?
The Counseling Center does not currently have a psychiatrist on staff and we do not prescribe or manage medication. We do work closely with the Student Health Center where enrolled students can be seen for psychiatric care and medication management.
Who will my counselor be?
Your initial session will be scheduled as soon as possible, based on your schedule and therapist availability. We have a number of permanent staff who are licensed clinical psychologists or licensed mental health counselors. Alternatively, you might be scheduled to meet with a doctoral intern. Our interns are carefully selected for our training program and are in the final stages of obtaining their Ph.D. or Psy.D. in psychology.
If you and your assessing therapist determine that brief individual therapy at the Counseling Center is appropriate for you, you might work with that assessing therapist, or you may request a counselor with particular interests or areas of expertise. Those requests are accommodated when possible based on availability and demand.
What is case management?
When brief individual counseling is not appropriate for a student, the Counseling Center is able to assist students by referring them to other services on campus and to community resources that can offer more specialized or longer-term help with problems and concerns. Our case manager is familiar with community resources and providers and can help you find a provider who meets your needs. If you are seeking or needing off-campus referral for longer-term or specialized counseling, you can call us during office hours (8:30-4:30pm) to request the services of our case manager who will assist you with securing off-campus care.
What if I need to talk to someone when the Counseling Center is not open?
The Counseling Center contracts with a service that provides after-hours support to students. To reach a counselor outside of business hours, on weekends, or on holidays, please call the Counseling Center main phone number, 360-650-3164, and dial 1 to be connected with a therapist.
If you are in a life-threatening emergency, call 911.
See Emergency Services.
Can I bring my friend or romantic partner to the Counseling Center for couples counseling?
The Counseling Center is able to offer couples counseling to students, pending counselor availability, when both parties are currently enrolled in classes. If you are interested in couples counseling, you and your partner must both call the Counseling Center to schedule individual assessments. Make sure to let your assessing therapist know that you are interested in couples counseling.
I have heard that some people are referred off campus for counseling after coming to the WWU Counseling Center. When and why does this happen?
Many factors affect what level of service a student receives through the Counseling Center, including the urgency of your situation, your specific concerns, and the availability of counselors and other resources. It is our goal to provide quality services in a timely manner to all students who present at the Counseling Center. Depending on your situation, your counselor may determine that longer-term, off-campus counseling or evaluation is most appropriate.
Sometimes it is overwhelming for students to try to find an off-campus therapist who takes their insurance and has openings. The Counseling Center attempts to remove these obstacles to pursuing off-campus counseling by providing case management, consultation, and referral.
I am taking a quarter off from classes. Can I still get counseling while I am not enrolled?
Due to high demand for Counseling Center services as well as issues of liability, the Counseling Center is unable to offer brief individual therapy or group therapy to students who are not enrolled for the summer or who are taking a quarter off. However, we do provide consultation and referral to recently enrolled students who are looking for off-campus services.
I need help obtaining a hardship withdrawal, will the Counseling Center provide me with documentation?
If you are considering withdrawing from one or more classes it may be helpful to talk with a counselor about your decision. You will probably also want to discuss your decision with the Academic Advising Center and Financial Aid Department. If you have never been seen at the Counseling Center, we may be unable to provide you with a statement of support regarding hardship withdrawal or verification of visit.