Walking to Elizabeth

About the Counseling Process

Your Counseling Experience: What to Expect

Part of Student Counseling Services’s vision is to empower students to develop and maintain resilience, autonomy, and self-advocacy. We hope that your counseling experience will allow you to learn more about yourself, your needs, and the needs of others. Also, we hope to equip you with the skills, tools, and resources to address your concerns. Our services are developed with this vision in mind.

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The Counseling Process

Counseling is a process of self-discovery and growth; it is a process that will take time, hard work, and patience. Student Counseling Services counselors will help provide a safe place for you to express your thoughts and feelings, and help you work toward resolving your concerns. Your counselor will listen as you discuss your concerns and experiences, and will try to understand things from your point of view. While counselors are unlikely to give you direct advice, your counselor will help you explore alternative points of view and options you may not have considered. Your counselor may also clarify the connections between your immediate concerns and the complexities of your personality and personal history. Additionally, your counselor may explain certain concepts and/or equip you with skills or tools to help you address your concerns. You may not feel better immediately, as successful counseling often has its ups and downs. Sometimes you may feel you are making rapid progress; and you may feel stuck at other times.

Your Role in Counseling

Counseling is most effective when you are open, honest, and willing to change. The time you spend in counseling will consist of talking about your concerns. It is primarily your responsibility to determine the content that is discussed during your sessions. There will likely be some balance between talking about your present-day experiences, as well as discussing past experiences or future concerns that may have contributed to the concerns you are currently experiencing. The exact focus and balance of your counseling experience will depend on the issues you bring into therapy, your counselor's perspective, and the preferences you voice over the course of counseling.

In order to get the most out of your counseling experience, you may potentially be assigned “homework” (don’t worry no grades given!) and be asked to apply the techniques or changes you have discussed in session in your life outside of session. After all, you will only typically meet with your counselor one hour per week; that leaves 167 hours that you have to practice and make the positive changes you are seeking. For further suggestions, please see the How to Get the Most Out of Counselinghandout on Student Counseling Services’s website.

The Counselors

You can expect Student Counseling Services counselors to be professionally trained. Counselors do not necessarily give advice and they cannot directly solve your problems for you. Your counselor will want to collaboratively work with you and support you in what you are capable of doing for yourself. Your counselor will maintain strict confidentiality except under certain circumstances (see the limits to confidentiality). If you have any questions about the limits of confidentiality, please bring them up with your counselor.

The counselors are interested in listening to your concerns and helping you develop a better understanding of yourself and your concerns. Your counselor will take you seriously and be willing to openly discuss anything you wish to discuss; no topic is off limits! Because counselors have different techniques to assist you, they may differ on how much talking they do in sessions, whether they ask you to do homework, and their focus of discussion. If you have any questions about your counseling, feel free to ask them during your sessions.

Electronic Paperwork

Due to confidentiality, Student Counseling Services maintains its own records separate from the university. The information collected is important to your counselor, and should be available for your counselor to review prior to the start of the counseling session. Therefore, students are expected to arrive early to complete their paperwork.

New Paperwork

Upon your very first Student Counseling Services appointment and/or the first appointment in the academic year, students will complete “New Client Paperwork.” This paperwork is done electronically, but it is also available in paper form for accessibility purposes. The paperwork takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

Returning Paperwork

Students who have been to counseling in the fall and are returning for their first ongoing counseling session in the spring will complete “Returning Client Paperwork.” This paperwork takes approximately 5-10 minutes to complete.


First Contact

When you call or come to Student Counseling Services to make an appointment, the office staff will work to find the first available appointment that matches your schedule. If you are in need of immediate help for a crisis situation, please tell the office staff and you will be seen as soon as possible.

Initial Screening

Students who are new to Student Counseling Services, or who have not attended counseling within the last year, will have an Initial Screening appointment. The Initial Screening appointment is a 30-minute appointment with the screening counselor. This appointment is typically used to gather information about you and what brought you to Student Counseling Services. The counselor is likely to ask you to describe what prompted you to come for counseling, as well as other questions which may help the counselor better understand who you are and how Student Counseling Services can best help you. The purpose of the Initial Screening appointment is to gather information that helps determine which services and counselors are best suited for you; or, in some cases, whether your needs would be better met by a provider outside of Student Counseling Services. At the conclusion of the Initial Screening appointment, the screening counselor will provide you with a recommendation for scheduling. You will check out at the front desk and the office staff will schedule you for an appointment based on the screening counselor’s recommendations.

Group Counseling

If you are recommended to join a group, you will be scheduled for a group counseling screening appointment with the group facilitator. During that meeting, you will learn more about the group and what to expect. For additional information, please see our Group Counseling Web page.

First Individual Counseling Appointment

After the initial screening occurs, you will have your first individual counseling appointment with your primary counselor. The first counseling session is a quite different from ongoing counseling sessions. During this session, the counselor will gather background information, which helps the counselor gain a “big picture” view of you and your concerns. This information typically includes your personal concerns and the impact they’re having in your life; your academics; current stressors/life situations; personal history; and your counseling goals and expectations.

Ongoing Individual Counseling Sessions

Ongoing individual counseling are approximately 45-50 minutes in length, and typically begin on the hour. The frequency of your appointments will be recommended by your primary counselor. You and your counselor will regularly discuss your counseling progress and your readiness to complete your counseling experience.