As a parent, it can be painful to know that your child is experiencing difficulty, especially if you are hundreds or thousands of miles away. However, parents can provide incredible support from a distance and can play a key role in helping to connect their son or daughter with the services they need. Research tells us that, when students experience problems, they are most likely to reach out to family and friends first. In fact, they are about three times more likely to talk to a parent than to seek help from a college counseling center or other professional resource. You are in a position to help.
If you become concerned about your son or daughter's wellbeing, the first step is to express your concerns in an honest and non-judgmental way. You can discuss the resources available with your child and encourage him or her to connect to the support services at Clark University. If you are still concerned that your child may be at risk and want to alert Clark University staff to what is happening, you may contact the Dean of Students office at (508)793-7423 or the Center for Counseling and Personal Growth (CPG) at (508)793-7678. While there are legal limits to what information we are able to disclose to you, we take your concerns seriously and want to partner with you in support of your son or daughter.
Important Information for Parents to Know about the Center for Counseling and Personal Growth:
The Clark University Center for Counseling and Personal Growth (CPG) is staffed by experienced, licensed mental health practitioners (as well as practitioners in training) who are best considered as specialists in the field of working with college-aged students. CPG provides mental health services such as individual and group psychotherapy as a free service for the undergraduate and graduate students of the Clark community.
"You are the first and best judge of your child's mental health…That is why your child needs you to be paying attention. Far too many kids in psychological pain don't reach out, and even those who do, wait too long. College counselors repeatedly tell me that the saddest thing they see each year is that many students have suffered for months before seeking help. These kids have symptoms, but they're vague and hard to explain — they're not sleeping, can't concentrate, eat too much or too little — and they don't associate them with either a medical or psychological program. They need someone who has known them all their life, and with whom they have regular contact to ask, notice, and know what the symptoms mean. They need you."
What services do you offer students?
Individual and group counseling is available to assist students with personal concerns they may experience while enrolled at Clark University. Psychiatric medication management services are available only for students who are actively involved in counseling treatment at CPG. Therapy services are offered free of charge.
What is your availability to students?
Our counseling center is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm when school is in session. It is open on a limited basis during Fall, Winter and Spring breaks and is closed during the summer (May 15th to August 15th). Depending on the time of year, students are generally seen within a week of calling for an initial appointment. During peak usage times, such as November and April, students may have to wait a little longer to get in. Our staff is aware that situations requiring immediate attention do exist. We are able to offer urgent appointments, which are designed to assist students who are confronting life-threatening circumstances, current or recent traumatic crises, and/or serious emotional distress. A counselor will work with the student to contain and stabilize the situation, and reschedule a follow-up appointment as well.
How do I refer my son or daughter to your services?
We encourage your son or daughter to call us at (508)793-7678 to schedule an appointment. In addition, they may email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an appointment. To encourage your child's independence, we do not allow parents to schedule appointments for their child. In addition, we do not reach out to students by request to begin the scheduling process. Students expected to arrange appointments on their own.
What should I do if my son or daughter is reluctant to seek counseling?
While counseling is a personal decision, sometimes it can be helpful to encourage a student to talk to a counselor about his or her concerns. It is important to remember that it's ultimately the student's decision to seek help, but the following strategies might help persuade an ambivalent student to consider counseling:
- You can let your child know that information shared during counseling is confidential (to the extent permitted by state law) and will not be disclosed without written permission.
- Remind your child that he or she can meet with a counselor for one session without committing to ongoing counseling.
- Oftentimes a student will not seek counseling because of the stigma that surrounds mental health treatment. You can tell your child that our counseling services are regularly used by many students for a variety of concerns and that utilizing counseling services reflects good use of one's resources. Just as it is common to visit a doctor when one has a medical program, there should be no shame in meeting with a counselor to discuss a personal issue or concern.
- Suggest that your child visit our website to become familiar with our services. Encourage your child to try our anonymous self-assessment and read our mental health resources page.
Is it possible for the counselor to update me on what my child talks about in counseling?
No. We cannot speak to you without your child's written consent. Counseling conversations and records remain strictly confidential by federal and state law. It is important to understand that confidentiality is an essential element of the counseling process because it creates a safe environment for students to discuss their personal concerns openly and honestly.
Will counseling records become part of my child's academic record?
No. Our records are confidential and are entirely separate from students' academic records.
I heard that your counseling center has session limits. Why?
Because of the high volume of students who request our services during the school year, we had to institute a session limit of 6 sessions per semester in order to accommodate the demand. However, the 6-session limit is not set in stone and if a student presents with acute distress and need, they will be seen for more intense and frequent treatment until they are stabilized. Once stabilized, if the student is comfortable with treatment on an every-other-week basis, they are welcome to continue on with longer-term care. If the student needs weekly counseling sessions on a longer-term basis, we will help connect the student with a therapist in the community.
Additional Resources for Parents
- The JED Foundation [PDF] — Protecting Your Child's Mental Health: What Can Parents Do?
- Transition Year — Parent Edition
- College Parents Central
- College Parents Tips and Ideas for College
- Transitioning from High School to College with a Psychiatric Diagnosis — Preparation
- What Do I Do if My College Student is Homesick?
- National Eating Disorders Association — Parent Toolkit
- Helicopter Parenting (University of Oregon)
- Stress and College Life (University of Oregon)
- How to Deal with College Students When They Come Home for the Summer
- How to Raise an Adult, by Julie Lythcott Haims, 2015.
- College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What To Do About It, by Richard Kadison, M.D., and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo, 2005.
- Letting Go (Fifth Edition): A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years, by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger, 2009.
- You're On Your Own (But I'm Here if you Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years, by Marjorie Savage, 2009.
- When Your Kid Goes to College: A Parent's Survival Guide, by Carol Barkin, 1999.
- Chicken Soup for the Soul: Empty Nesters: 101 Stories about Surviving and Thriving When the Kids Leave Home, by Jack Canfield, et al, 2008.
- Don't Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money: The Essential Parenting Guide to the College Years, by Helen Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller, 2011.
- I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help! How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment, by Xavier Amador, 2011.