Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know I should go to counseling?

The Center for Counseling and Personal Growth (CPG) is a good way to get help and support if you're dealing with a stressful situation, especially if it's something that you might not feel comfortable talking through with friends, family members, or other supports. You are welcome to talk with someone at the Counseling Center whether it's about a life-changing event or simply a worrisome one. It can also be a good resource if you're worried about a friend and want advice from an experienced professional about how you can best be helpful.

Does it mean something is terribly wrong with me if I need counseling?

No. Sometimes students in college find life difficult and overwhelming. A great many life stressors contribute to these feelings. Some examples are academic stress, scheduling and time management, illness or injury, and devastating life events such as abuse, death, or a relationship breakup. There can also be internal factors that impact a person's well-being, issues such as self-esteem, body image, or feeling different or isolated from other people. Regardless of why, many people experience times in life when events become overwhelming. Seeking support during those times does not mean something is wrong with you.

What would an appointment be like?

Students sit down with a counselor to look at their situation and decide together where the problem lies and what is needed. Your counselor will listen and prompt you to clarify your own thinking, rather than deciding what's best for you or giving advice. The counselor will ask you guiding questions and also make suggestions and recommendations about what course of therapy might be the most helpful for you.

How long is a therapy session?

Ordinarily, students will see a counselor for a 45 to 50 minute appointment.

I heard that the Counseling Center has session limits (6 sessions per semester). What's up with that?

In the past few years, our Counseling Center experienced a huge increase in volume. For instance, between 2013 and 2015, we had a 46% increase in volume (that's over 150 more students!). While we are glad that students are utilizing our services more for help, we were finding that we couldn't accommodate everyone in a timely manner. So we had to make a decision – have people wait a long time to get in or limit the frequency of their sessions. We ended up choosing the latter because we wanted to make sure that we could see everyone who requested services and make sure that they were OK. A lot of times, shorter-term treatment is very effective to help students. In looking at our data from previous years, we saw that 87% of students were naturally seen for 6 sessions or fewer. So that's how we determined the number 6. Now with this said, the number 6 is not set in stone. If your needs indicate that you need to be seen more frequently or more often than 6 sessions that semester, we will do what's clinically appropriate. We would never underserve someone who is in need of help. But once a student's distress is stabilized and he or she is feeling better, the frequency and intensity of treatment can decrease a little bit so we can continue with longer-term care. With that said, if you feel like you need weekly therapy sessions on a longer-term basis or your need more specialized treatment, we will be happy to help connect you with a therapist in the community.

Will CPG tell anyone else that I have used their services? Will you tell my parents?

The Counseling Center is a confidential resource and a counselor would only talk to a Dean or parent if a student makes a request or if there was an imminent risk of serious injury or violence. No other campus office has knowledge of a student's visits to the Counseling Center without his or her explicit permission.

If I go to Counseling, are those records part of my academic records?

No. Because counseling records are confidential, they are not shared with the University. Also Counseling Center records are destroyed 7 years after graduation.

I think medication will help me. Do you have a psychiatrist that can see me?

If you are in need of psychiatric medication, there are some resources available in the Worcester community.  However, because psychiatric medication resources are pretty limited in the Worcester area, we urge you to keep your mental health prescriber (or Pediatrician/Primary Care Physician) from home.  Many students currently do this, and follow up appointments can be easily scheduled during school breaks. However, if it's not possible to keep your mental health prescriber from home, we recommend that you contact a Worcester area mental health clinic to arrange an initial appointment.  A list of specific mental health clinics in the Worcester area can be found on the CPG main webpage (https://www2.clarku.edu/offices/counseling/) as well as the Off-Campus Mental Health Resources webpage (https://www2.clarku.edu/offices/counseling/resources/community.cfm)

What if I don't feel comfortable with my assigned counselor?

We want you to have a successful experience at CPG. If you don't feel comfortable with your assigned counselor, please let us know. Ideally, this would be a concern that you can actually discuss with your counselor. However, if you don't feel comfortable doing so, please communicate this with CPG Director, Megan Kersting (mkersting@clarku.edu), and hopefully a different arrangement can be made for you.

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 when someone you care about is in pain, but remember it is very hard to make a person seek help if they don't want to or don't feel they need it. Counseling with an unwilling client is usually not very effective. Here are some ideas that might help:

  • 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 hurting" rather than "You are in trouble and need help."
  • Offer to be with your friend while he or she requests an appointment.
  • Offer to accompany your friend to their first appointment. You may wait in the waiting area to be available when they finish.
  • 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, and you do not necessarily even need to let your friend know you came in. The counselor may be able to offer you suggestions about how to interact more effectively with this friend, as well as to manage your own feelings about the situation.
  • Check out the Mental Health Resources page on our website and see if there is any information you can share with your friend.

Can you write my professor a note to excuse me from class or exam or help me get an extension on my paper?

Even though we clearly understand that you may be going through a difficult time, we encourage you to discuss these matters with your professor yourself. If your professor expresses that you need a medical note, we will ask for you to sign a Release of Information form, and we will sign a form called a Certificate of Health indicating that you attended a session with CPG. We will not divulge any other personal or health information to your professor.

Why are you so far from campus?

As we say to students, there is "real far" and then there is "Clark far". We are only two blocks off of campus (on 501 Park Avenue). We oftentimes urge students to utilize their time walking to and from their appointments to reflect on what they will want to talk about in therapy and later process what was discussed. If you find that you are physically unable to walk to the Counseling Center, you can call University Police (ext. 7575) to provide you with an escort.