Counseling Center FAQs
All information disclosed within sessions is strictly confidential. Information may not be released to anyone outside of Counseling Services without the written consent of the student.
The exceptions to confidentiality where disclosure is required by law include:
- Where there is reasonable suspicion of abuse of children or elderly or dependent persons.
- Where the individual presents a serious danger of violence to another.
- Where the therapist is subpoenaed and then mandated by a court of law
- If a student is suicidal and the therapist is concerned that the individual is likely to harm him or herself, the therapist is permitted to limit confidentiality to protect the safety of the student.
The words therapy and counseling are often used interchangeably. Therapy is a unique experience in which you choose to set aside time each week to work in collaboration with a therapist, to address issues which have become problematic to your mental and emotional well being. Therapy becomes a time and space for you to discuss these concerns with a trained professional, who is an objective, non-judgmental listener, who will help you view your struggles in a different light, and develop creative solutions.
The initial session is a time to hear how things have been going, particularly the issues and concerns that have been causing distress in your life. You will be asked questions as your counselor works to gain a deeper understanding of your concerns. You and your therapist will begin to talk about which treatment options would be most helpful in addressing your particular issues. If you have questions, be sure to ask your therapist.
The length of each session is typically between 40 and 45 minutes. We work from a brief therapy model if therapy. If your needs cannot be accommodated within this model, we will help you determine how to best manage your care and will assist you with referrals within the community.
Brief therapy means that the number of sessions are limited. Enrolled students can have up to 6 sessions per semester, 8 per academic year. The goal of this approach is to provide an appropriate, focused course of therapy within the given period of time. Referrals and resources will be provided for those students whose needs extend beyond that given time.
Except for outside referrals, Counseling Services are covered by Westmont Student Fees.
Some of the issues commonly addressed are:
- Interpersonal Relationships - Roommates, disappointing friendships, dating, communicating, engagement and marriage, breaking up, handling conflict, handling anger, overcoming shyness, risking intimacy.
- Questions of Identity and Self-Worth - Who am I, why am I here, what do I believe or not believe, what about my achievements and failures, do I belong . . . am I loved?
- Transitions, Decision-Making and Planning - Adjustment to college life, academic and career choices, choosing a major, re-entry from off campus programs and ministries, joining and quitting a team, transfer or withdraw, . ..“what will I do after I graduate?”
- Family - Leaving home, divorce, separation, adoption, blended families, affairs, abuse, holidays, financial stress, significant life events, significant others.
- Depression - Can’t sleep, can’t get out of bed, can’t concentrate, can’t stop crying, don’t care, suicidal thoughts, self-destructive actions, medications
- Anxiety - Stress, worry, procrastination, obsessions and compulsions, panic attack, post traumatic stress.
- Grief and Loss - Losses stemming from life's changes such as, growing up, moving parents divorcing or loss from deaths of family members, friends, or pets.
- “Sometimes Hard to Talk About” Concerns- Unplanned pregnancy, sexual assault, pornography, sexual identity, addictions, substance abuse, sex, mental illness.
Each of our therapists are licensed professionals within the state of California or are clinical trainees supervised by a licensed staff member. We specialize in the developmental stage in which you, as a college student, are in. We have expertise in most of the related issues common within this stage. As professionals, we do continuing education, targeting emerging areas of interest and need.
We have a number of students taking medication who work with Counseling Services, the Health Center and the prescribing physician to coordinate continued treatment. Counseling Services and the Health Center collaborate to provide referrals to off-campus psychiatrists for medication consultations when needed.
Our web site and the Counseling Services Library provide excellent links and resources for mental health screenings, prevention, as well as general information on mental health issues. We also have a variety of brochures in our office which you are welcome to read and take with you. To explore our online resources, start with our Self Help page.
Here are some common warning signals a friend might display if they are struggling:
- Forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating
- Dramatic changes in performance, procrastination
- Anxiety, nervousness
- Low energy, sad appearance
- Uncontrollable crying
- Irritability, low frustration tolerance
- “Hyper” or agitated behavior, sleeplessness
- Extreme weight gain loss or gain
- Marked deterioration in personal hygiene
- Talking about hurting themselves or someone else
- Strange or bizarre, behavior, thoughts or ideas
- Incoherent speech
If you see some of these signs, you may want to talk with your friend about your concerns. You can begin by asking a question as simple as "I've noticed you haven't been yourself lately", of "how are things going" and then listen to what they have to say. You may want to encourage them to come to the Counseling Services to talk with a therapist about their challenges. You can also make a one-time consultation appointment with our therapists to discuss your concerns.
If your needs cannot be met through brief therapy, you will be referred to outside community resources. Also, if your needs require a specific type of expertise that is not available at Counseling Services you will receive a referral into the community. Counseling Services may provide a referral after the initial session or during the course of treatment as these needs become apparent.
1. If you have symptoms or concerns requiring specialized services not available through Counseling Services, such as:
- Significant drug and alcohol dependence or abuse, or past failed treatment.
- Significant and/or long-standing eating disorders that may pose a medical danger
- Psychological evaluation for ADD, ADHD, any learning disability, or neuropsychological testing.
2. If you need to be seen more than once a week or there is need for long-term intensive therapy due to:
- A history of multiple hospitalizations
- A history of repeated suicide attempts and/or chronic suicidality.
- Evidence of progressive deterioration in mental or emotional functioning.
- Manifestations of psychotic symptoms or severe manic symptoms.
- DO understand the purpose of our initial session together is to review your paperwork, understand your concerns and discuss what would be of most help. Changes to the problem areas where you have concerns will mostly likely come later.
- DO be as honest as you can. You will get the most out of counseling if you are open and honest about your thoughts, feelings and concerns.
- DO identify your goals. Think about what changes are most meaningful to you. Focus your time and energy on defining those changes and work toward them in session and between sessions.
- DO be patient with yourself and the process. Remember, it is a process. Most problems have taken months or years to develop, so it may take longer than you expected to move through them.
- DO make a commitment to your treatment. Be present at all sessions. Come prepared, knowing what you want to discuss. Practice the suggestions you and your counselor come up with. Keep your therapist informed about issues in your life.
- DO expect to experience some discomfort. Therapy can be an enriching experience, but it can also be challenging. Keep coming to counseling even when you feel challenged. Your therapist will be there to help you through it.
- DO take ownership of your counseling experience. We will not tell you what to do, rather we will serve as an ally, a guide and a resource in the process. Only you can make the changes you desire in your life.
- DO ask questions. If something is not working for you or not helping, please bring this up with your therapist. If you are considering not returning to therapy, it is important to talk with your therapist about your concerns. If you desire a different therapist, it is okay to talk about this and see what other options are available. Let your therapist know what you are thinking. We appreciate and welcome your feedback ad it helps us more effectively assist you.
- DO tell your counselor when you are ready to end therapy. Your therapist may give you recommendations for further work, yet you will know best when it is time to move forward with the changes you’ve implemented, without further assistance from your therapist.
- DO enjoy the experience! The opportunity to change and grow is full of wonder and grace.
“My experience has been more than simply venting my problems with my counselor. I was able to communicate, process, and grow with my counselor. After every session I feel more confident in myself and in the life that I am living.”
“It’s given me so much hope, clarity, and insight; like a breath of fresh air.”
“I’ve been cutting myself for 3 years, and the counseling center has helped lead me in knowing how to counsel myself to see different perspectives of the situation so that cutting seems unreasonable to me when I am feeling worthless and guilty. I have learned how to control my anxiety and panic attacks, and seek the Lord in times of need. My faith in God has greatly increased because I have experienced the immediate growth and change in my life. Though I still have a long way to go, it’s the first time in a while that I can say I trust myself and in God, that I am stable enough to make the right decisions with a clear mind and purposeful heart.”
“I was struggling for multiple reasons and I felt like my therapist really wanted to get to know me and listen to me while at the same time addressing my issues and making connections between what I was going through and my past experiences. It helped me understand my past more and figure out ways to cope now and in the future. I also never felt like I had issues, because my therapist made it sound as if it was just something I was working through, nothing was wrong with me. I liked that a lot. Thank you so much.”
“My counselor was a blessing. She helped guide me to a more empowered and invigorated path in life. She assured me in recognizing the reality and limits in the positive direction and change I can make in this life, and how much God has for us after death.”
“Just having someone to talk to was great. At first I felt bad that I didn’t have any huge issues, but I was still treated with care and concern and I’ve definitely seen improvements.”
“Counseling has helped me remember that I am loved – people do care about me and want to listen to me, and it is nice to have a caring, loving, nurturing, gentle presence to help guide me and walk with me; it is nice to have someone who does not judge me, and helps me realize that I am not defined by my performance and that my voice is important.”
“I came into counseling with some brokenness from my family. My dad hurt me but I didn’t know how to process it on my own. I always felt so relieved to talk to someone with 100% honesty and trust. Although I still have more to work through, I do not feel angry at my dad anymore and I feel a lot of hope for our relationship. I feel very blessed by my counselor.”
“My emotional functioning was not at the level that I would have liked to see. After help facilitated by my counselor, I feel confident in expressing, thinking through, and addressing my thoughts and feelings in a healthy way.”