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Student FAQs

What types of services are offered by the Counseling Center?

The Center offers brief individual therapy, group therapy, consultation for faculty, staff, parents, and students, and educational and outreach programs to the campus community. Services are available to students throughout the academic year.

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Why do students typically come for counseling?

Students come to the counseling center with a range of problems. Many have issues related to their normal development, such as identity or relationship issues. Others are dealing with more specific psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, bereavement, substance abuse, or eating and body image issues. Some students aren't sure what the problem might be--they just know they are having a hard time studying, eating, sleeping, or otherwise functioning. A counselor can help students sort out what's wrong in order to help get students back on track.

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When should I seek personal counseling services?

There are many situations that cause emotional stress that may interfere with your ability to perform at your best while you are studying here at UMD. These may include a death in the family, relationship difficulties, alcohol or drug abuse, a physical illness, sexuality issues, depression, anxiety, family difficulties, study problems, eating concerns or other challenges. In short, anything that interferes with your getting the most out of your experience at UMD or your life in general may be explored in counseling.

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How does counseling work?

Counseling works by helping you objectively look at behaviors, feelings, and thoughts in situations that you find problematic. It helps you to learn more effective ways in dealing with those situations. Counseling is a collaborative effort. You and your personal counselor will identify goals, what you want to happen, and agree on how you will know when you are making progress.

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Does counseling really help?

For most students, counseling does help them to make the most of their university experience, both personally and academically. Meeting with a counselor is a chance to explore one's hopes and fears, and determine possible courses of action or resolution in a respectful, professional, and confidential setting. Progress and change can happen. Nine out of ten Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports who had participated in counseling said that counseling had helped them.

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Who is eligible for counseling services?

UMD students who are enrolled full-time may use the services of Counseling Services. In addition, one-time consultation services are available to faculty and staff. Partners of students may also be seen but only as part of couples counseling. If partners need individual service, they will be referred to community agencies.

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What about part-time students or students in the Division of Professional and Continuing Education?

Although the Center cannot provide on-going services to part-time students, we can help by meeting with part-time students to clarify the nature of a problem and identify off-campus treatment resources.

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How much does it cost for individual or group therapy?

There is no charge for individual or group therapy. Appointments with the Center's psychiatrist are billed through the student's medical insurance.

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Is there a session limit?

We do not currently limit the number of times a student may be seen. Most students find the issue that brought them to the Counseling Center gets resolved with just 4-6 sessions. We do refer students to off-campus treatment providers if they need specialized services or if they need more intensive treatment than the Center can provide.

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Will I need to take medications?

Being seen for psychotherapy by a counselor does not necessarily mean you will need to take medications. Many psychological problems can be successfully treated without the use of medications. If you and your counselor decide that medications should be considered as an adjunct to counseling, you will need to see a physician (such as a psychiatrist) to be prescribed any medications. Your counselor will discuss referral options (such as a local  psychiatrist, a local physician, or your hometown providers) with you. It is important to let your counselor know about any medications you have already been prescribed.

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What should I do in an emergency?

In any emergency involving physical harm or a threat to life, please call UMass Dartmouth Police Department by calling 911 or 508.999.9191 immediately. If you are experiencing a psychological crisis, you can call or come to the Counseling Center between the hours of 8am-5pm, Monday through Friday. Let the receptionist know you are requesting a same-day emergency appointment. A counselor will briefly meet with you to determine the best course of action (scheduling an intake appointment with you, referring you to other resources, etc.). If you are experiencing a crisis and it is after hours:

  • Call x9191 on campus
  • Call 911 off campus 
  • Call 508.999.8107 (non-emergency UMassD Police line)
  • Crisis Call Hotline 775.784.8090
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.TALK (8255)
  • Hope Line Network 1.800.SUICIDE (775.784.2433)

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How do I make an appointment?

If you are interested in meeting with a counselor, you may call our office at 508.999.8648 or 8650 or stop by the Center's office, located on the second floor of the Auditorium Annex, Monday-Friday, between the hours of 8am and 5pm.

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How can I make an appointment with a psychiatrist?

You may call the counseling center and request our referral list for psychiatry, or speak with a counselor about other ways of finding a psychiatrist.  

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What if I need to cancel an appointment?

If you need to cancel an appointment, please notify us at least 24 hours in advance by calling 508.999.8648 or 8650. "No shows" for appointments with the psychiatrist will be charged $25. Although there isn't a "no show" fee for psychotherapy appointments, it is important to cancel in advance if you are not able to attend, so that we can give that appointment slot to a student who has been waiting for an intake appointment.

If we need to cancel an appointment, please understand that sometimes emergency situations arise that take precedence over non-emergency scheduled visits. If we have to cancel your appointment to accommodate one of your peers in crisis, we will phone you or email you to reschedule your appointment at the earliest available time.

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What are the qualifications of the Counseling Center's staff?

UMD is committed to providing the highest quality of counseling and psychological services to its students. To that end, full-time licensed or license-eligible psychologists and counselors staff the Center. The Center also serves as a training site for doctoral and master's-level graduate students in mental health-related fields. The graduate clinicians-in-training are closely supervised by licensed or certified senior clinical staff.

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What if I have a preference about the kind of counselor I want to see?

If a student has a preference regarding the kind of counselor s/he wishes to meet with (e.g., man, woman, trainee, senior staff member, etc.), the student should make this known. The secretary will attempt to accommodate such requests whenever possible.

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What if I do not feel comfortable with my assigned therapist?

If you are not comfortable with your assigned counselor, please let your counselor or the front desk know. We encourage students to "shop" for a counselor who they feel comfortable with and is a good fit for the problems they want to address.

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Can I ask for a specific counselor or a counselor of a particular gender or ethnicity?

Yes, if we can, we will accommodate your request.  If we cannot accommodate your request, we would be more than happy to help you find a clinician in the community that can meet your needs.

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Can I use the Center while maintaining a relationship with a counselor or psychiatrist at home?

Yes, the Center's staff would probably want to consult with the home mental health service provider to assure continuity of care, but we encourage students to maintain those relationships as well as build relationships with an on-campus support system.

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Does Counseling Services offer court-mandated counseling?

No. It is the policy of Counseling Services not to provide court-mandated counseling. We can help to provide you with appropriate referrals in the community.

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What can I expect during my first counseling visit?

After you arrive for your first appointment, you will check in with the receptionist. You will be asked to fill out brief background information sheets and will be given some information to read about counseling and confidentiality. During the first contact with your counselor, you will explore what issues you would like to focus on, and together you can set up a plan for beginning to work on these goals. Sometimes you may set up weekly appointments with your counselor or at other times you may find appointments every two or three weeks are most helpful. You will discuss these issues with your counselor.

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How many counseling sessions will I receive?

Services at our center are primarily intended to help students with short-term concerns, rather than long-term, intensive psychological needs. This generally means that student s will meet in individual, group, or relationship counseling for approximately 1-2 semesters. Students who want or need more frequent or longer-term contact with a counselor are referred to off-campus resources. Students may use group counseling as an adjunct or primary form of treatment. Group sessions are only limited by the number of groups available and the number of times any group meets.

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What are the different types of groups?

In therapy groups, the emphasis is on change: changing problematic behaviors, attitudes, and emotions. Participants explore personal problems and concerns with a group of persons who have had similar experiences. Discussion includes both present issues and troubling past events, along with the negative consequences of those events. Therapy groups are safe, confidential, and supportive environments to work through problems, heal old hurts, express emotions, learn more about yourself, receive feedback on how others perceive you, and acquire more effective interpersonal behaviors.

In psychoeducational groups, the emphasis is on education and skill development. Participants engage in semi-structured discussions and exercises, role-play, and giving and receiving feedback, with the group leader functioning as a teacher, trainer, and facilitator. The focus is on acquiring information, learning new skills, and refining existing skills pertaining to a specific topic. Psychoeducational groups usually meet weekly for 2-8 weeks, depending on the topic.

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If I am in group therapy, how much personal information do I have to share?

You control what, how much, and when you share with the group. No one will force you to reveal your deepest, most personal thoughts. Most people find that as they gradually feel safe enough to share what is troubling them, a group can be very helpful and affirming. However, you can also be helped by listening to others and thinking about how what they are saying might apply to you.

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How confidential is my contact with the Center?

Visits to the Center are strictly confidential. This means that communications between counselor and client are privileged and safe-guarded. Information is not released to anyone (parents, professors, employers, or authorities) without your written permission. In the state of Massachusetts, the confidential relations and communications between licensed psychologists and their clients are placed upon the same basis as those provided by law between attorney and client. There are some exceptions that you need to know about. First, if there is a risk of imminent harm to yourself or another person (e.g., a serious intent to commit suicide or homicide), therapists have a legal and ethical duty to protect life. Second, therapists must release information when a court of law orders them to do so. Third, if we believe a child, elderly person, or mentally retarded person is being abused, therapists are mandated by law to report the abuse. Fourth, if you are in a medical crisis, therapists may sometimes provide necessary medical information (e.g., about medications) to medical personnel.

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How can the Counseling Center help if I am having serious academic problems?

If a serious personal situation is affecting your academic standing, the Center staff can serve as a liaison with the academic units in the University (such as deans' offices, college advisors and faculty members). We also will handle requests for Medical Leave for mental health reasons and returns from these medical leaves of absence. The purpose of a Medical Leave is to allow a student time to get well and eventually return and succeed academically.

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If I think my friend needs help, how do I get him or her to come in and see you?

It can be very difficult for you when someone you care about is in pain. You might find yourself feeling helpless, frightened, frustrated or angry. You cannot make your friend seek help if they don't want to or don't feel they need it, but here are some things you might offer as a friend:

  • Let your friend know that you are concerned. Suggest that he or she make an appointment with a counselor to see if we can be of help. Try to phrase the communication using "I' language, rather than "you" language. For example, "I care about you and I am sad to see you are hurting" rather than "You are in trouble and need help."
  • Offer to sit with your friend while he/she makes an appointment.
  • Offer to accompany your friend to their first appointment, and either wait in the waiting area or go to the appointment with him/her.
  • Surf the web or the bookstore for information about your friend's problem(s), and pass it along to your friend. Invite him/her to compare reactions with you about the information, or talk about the information with a counselor.
  • Come into the Counseling Center yourself, and talk with a counselor about your worries about your friend. You will not need to tell the counselor your friend's name if you think it might upset them. By coming in yourself, you will be showing your friend how to seek out consultation and support, and making it more possible for them to do the same.

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What if I'm concerned about another person's behavior?

Call the Center at X8650 or 8648 if you are concerned about the behavior of a UMD student, faculty, or staff member. Staff members will assist you in exploring available strategies, and will also provide appropriate guidance and resource referrals.

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 What is the Counseling Center's policy on letters for comfort animals?

At this time the Counseling Center does not write letters for comfort animal accommodations. In rare circumstances an exception will be made if the student requesting the accommodation has been receiving ongoing therapy. Decisions regarding this accommodation are always made at the discretion of the therapist. 

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 What is the Counseling Center's email policy?

The Counseling Center wants you to be aware that communication via email is not a secure form of communication. Also, emails received from students and counselor's responses may be included in Counseling Services client files for documentation of communication.

In case of an emergency, email should not be used. Counseling staff members vary in the frequency of checking and responding to email. The quickest way to reach a counselor is either by coming to the Counseling Center or by calling the Center (508.999.8648 or 8650). After hours, help can be reached on campus through calling the UMassD Police dispatch (x9191). Off campus, call 911 or go to your local emergecy department.

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How long will you keep my records on file?

We follow the state and national guidelines for confidential records. All such records are required to be kept on file for seven years after your last treatment session unless you are a minor and then your records will be kept for seven years after you reach the age of 18. After the seven-year requirement period, your records would normally be destroyed by shredding.

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What is a medical leave of absence?

A Medical Leave of Absence (MLOA) is a way of taking time away from school to get treatment for an underlying medical or psychological condition, with the option to return to school in a future semester once that condition has been adequately treated.

Examples may include (but are not by no means limited to) a serious concussion or other injury, a serious physical illness or disease, severe depression/anxiety, bipolar disorder, or a psychologically traumatizing event.  If the condition is getting in the way of the student’s academic success, the student might qualify for a MLOA. 

  • Taking a MLOA during the semester means withdrawing from all classes.
  • All grades for that semester become “W’s” and do not count toward the student’s GPA.
  • If a MLOA is taken between semesters, that student does not register for new classes until they are ready to return from the MLOA (see details of returning below).
  • An MLOA could be for one semester or several semesters. Undergrads can be on an MLOA for up to two years, (4 semesters) while graduate students can be on an MLOA for up to one year (two semesters) without needing to re-apply to the university.
  • For conditions that are primarily or entirely physical, a student’s eligibility for a medical leave would be determined through Health Services. Please contact the Health Center for more information on taking a MLOA for physical health reasons.
  • For conditions that are primarily or entirely psychological/psychiatric, that student’s eligibility is determined through the Counseling Center.
  • Students may voluntarily withdraw from a certain number of credits during their time at UMass Dartmouth without having an underlying medical condition. An MLOA does not count toward the credit limit for voluntary withdrawal.
  • Except for very rare circumstances, a MLOA is only granted if it is sought on or before the deadline for withdrawing from classes. For example, sometimes a leave might be granted after the withdrawal date if the student was hospitalized during the withdrawal deadline.  MLOAs are not retroactively granted for semesters that have already come to an end.
  • A student cannot take an MLOA for mental health purposes just by filling out the appropriate paperwork. They must meet with a provider at the Counseling Center.  The provider will evaluate the condition, the student’s eligibility for MLOA, and will provide more information about MLOA.  If a student is eligible for an MLOA, they will be given the option to proceed with filling out the paperwork and will be guided through the process.

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What are some alternatives to a medical leave of absence?

Depending on a student’s circumstances, a student might consider:

  • Talking to professors to request an extension on individual assignments (if needed). Many professors are willing to be flexible if they understand that there is a good reason for the request.
  • Seeking accommodations for medical/psychiatric/psychological conditions through the office for Access and Success.
  • Talking to professors to discuss an “incomplete” for particular classes. An “incomplete” means that a student can complete their assignments and/or exams in the weeks and months after the semester has come to an end (determined by the professor).  When the work for the semester is complete, your grade is recorded as normal.  An incomplete might be taken in one class or many classes, as needed.
  • Voluntarily withdrawing from some or all classes. Students may voluntarily withdraw from a certain number of classes during their time at UMass Dartmouth and do not need to have an underlying medical condition in order to do so.  A MLOA is for students with an underlying medical condition (whether sudden or ongoing).

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How do I take a medical leave of absence?

  • Contact the Counseling Center or Health Services to set up an appointment, and let us know that you’re seeking an evaluation for a MLOA. Be mindful that the deadline for taking an MLOA is the same as the normal withdrawal deadline for the semester.  Rare exceptions might include when a student was hospitalized during the withdrawal deadline.
  • During or after your meeting with the Counseling Center, you will be given some simple paperwork to fill out. This paperwork includes details on the medical leave process as well as steps you need to take prior to returning to campus at the conclusion of the MLOA. 
  • You are encouraged to ask any questions you have about the MLOA process itself, as well as questions you might have about things like how it will impact tuition, financial aid, etc. You might be referred to other offices to get some of these questions answered, since the details of these issues may vary from individual to individual.
  • If you live in the campus residence halls, make arrangements to check out and leave campus promptly. Students who are on a MLOA will generally not be allowed to live on campus or work on campus during their medical leave.

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What do I do during a medical leave of absence?

In short, focus on your health.  Seek treatment for your underlying health condition and take the steps you need to get better.  We care about our students, and we want you to get the help you need so that when you return to campus you are able to succeed, be well, and thrive.

For a MLOA that is for a psychiatric/psychological health condition:

  • Students are required to have 12 sessions or 3 months of psychotherapy. This is because most mental health conditions require at least 12 sessions to treat effectively, and we want to make sure that students are getting real help with the mental health condition so that they can be healthy and successful when they return to campus.
    • Therapy must be with a licensed mental health provider.
    • Sessions with a prescriber (psychiatrist or other medical doctor) are excellent and are encouraged, but do not count toward the 12 session/3 month requirement. Therapy must be with a licensed therapist, counselor, psychologist, clinical social worker not just a provider for medication management.
  • Discuss your progress with your mental health provider(s)
    • If you are not sure how to connect with a mental health provider, the counseling center can provide you with referrals (and ways of finding a provider in your area).
    • Have open and honest discussions with your provider about when you’ve made enough progress that returning to school would be in your best interest. If possible, we want to ensure that any underlying mental health issues do not interfere with your wellbeing and your academic success upon your return.
    • The Counseling Center would be happy to provide a treatment summary or other records to your mental health provider(s) upon request.

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How do I return from a medical leave of absence?

When you and your mental health provider agree that you are ready to return to school:

  • First, have your provider write a brief letter summarizing your treatment, and have them mail/fax the letter to the Counseling Center at 508.999.9192. The letter should include:
    • A summary of the work that you’ve done (diagnosis, progress, lingering issues)
    • The number of sessions you’ve had, and over what period of time (for example, x sessions over the course of x months)
    • Their professional opinion on whether you are ready to return to school, or whether your underlying mental health condition would make this a bad idea for your physical or mental health.
    • Any other details that your provider thinks may be important for the Counseling Center to know
  • Next, call the counseling center at (508) 999-8650 to arrange a meeting with a campus counselor. This meeting is usually brief (30 minutes), and you and the counselor will review:
    • The reason for your medical leave (depression, substance use disorder, etc.)
    • Your progress in addressing the underlying cause of the medical leave
    • Your readiness to return to campus (supported by the letter your provider sent us in the first step, above)
    • What steps can be taken to help you re-acclimate to campus and maintain your mental wellness for this semester and beyond
    • In some cases (such as when a student is very far from campus or when the world is in the midst of a global pandemic), the session may be conducted remotely.
    • If circumstances allow, the clinician will also schedule an intake appointment for you at the Counseling Center. You will be expected to have regular appointments at the Counseling Center during your first semester back.
    • When the visit is complete, if you have been cleared to return to campus you will receive an official letter confirming this.
  • You will also need to contact your academic advisor and inform them that you are planning on returning to school. After meeting with them, the advising hold on your COIN account will be removed.  You may also be asked to update your emergency contacts at this time.
  • If you plan to live on campus, contact Res Life to arrange this.
  • During your first semester back, you are expected to meet with a counselor at the Counseling Center on a regular basis. If you have a community mental health provider that you like, you may continue to see this person with occasional check-ins at the Counseling Center. If you are receiving ongoing therapy in the community, your visits with the Counseling Center may be briefer and less frequent.

How do I set an Anchor in t4?

You don't.

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