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Do all Universities/Colleges offer free counseling services?

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Just curious - if you are attending college/university, are there always free counseling services? Do they also have both therapists and psychiatrists there?

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Where I went, there were free counseling sessions, but only for limited services. When I presented with my list of traumas and craziness, they said I was basically beyond the scope of what they could help with and they gave me a list of doctors in the area that I could contact. YMMV.

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mine is the same as theforest.  brief, time-limited (and I think potentially issue-specific) services.  Definitely free and good if you have some exam-related anxiety or similar things, but not to manage an actual mental health condition.  i did the intake and once I said hospitalization I was referred out quite quickly.  (to someone who was not particularly effective, but took my insurance)

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The college I went to had both therapists and psychiatrist and was able to see people on an ongoing basis, including for fairly significant mental illness. They were hit or miss depending on the specific therapist, but no more so that it always is. You got a couple sessions free - I don't remember how many but not a lot - and after that, you had to pay $10 per appointment. They would bill to insurance if you specifically requested it, which most people didn't since $10 was less than you would usually pay anyway. 

I never used the counseling resources at my graduate school and just went straight to seeing someone in the local area. I think you could do 3 or 5 appointments a semester. There was a specific set number, whatever it was. I'm assuming they would refer you out after more than that, and probably right away if you had anything more than a single issue you wanted to discuss or general college-related anxiety and stress. 

I currently work at a community college that has free counselors, but again they only do time-limited, issue-specific counseling, although there is not a set in stone number of sessions like my grad school had. They seem to serve more to help connect people to appropriate resources in the community, whether it be mental health or other social services like housing/rental assistance, emergency financial assistance, child care assistance, legal services or whatever. We generally serve a low-income, high immigrant population, even relative to other community colleges, so many of our students may be struggling with a number of issues other than mental health, and our counseling center serves as kind of the point-of-contact for all kinds of assistance.  

It might be relevant, but I went to college at a large university that was the primary employer in the area, a mid-sized institution in a major metropolitan area for graduate school, and work at a community college in a smallish city in a largely agricultural area. 

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There aren't really any uniform guarantees at all when it comes to this. A lot of schools are apparently surprisingly terrible, especially with psychiatry (I've spent an inordinate amount of time researching this in the past). I was relatively lucky when I went to uni as we had a decent set of varied mental health services on-campus, which were very much overbooked and overwhelmed and didn't always have the best practitioners (main counselor/therapist was pretty great, psychiatrist #1 was pretty terrible, #2 was decent, #2's very-temporary replacement/substitute was pretty great based on my limited impression of him (he had just graduated med school there and was only covering a few appointments over part of the summer while other practitioners were on leave prior to going to the NIH for research)), but was still much better than it could have been.

The structure of the services was slightly odd and there were a number of complexities, I tried to simplify or not cover most of those. We had counseling services, which primarily did either one-on-one scheduled therapy with an assigned counselor/therapist (after an initial eligibility assessment) or emergency drop-ins. This was "free" due to being covered in student fees for almost all students. There was technically a 15 session per year (or semester? I think it was year, or maybe per two semesters, but I don't think it was per semester...) hard cap on those, but my counselor/therapist overrode that in my case.

Then we had mental health services for scheduled appointments with psychiatrists/psychologists (mostly psychiatrists, also they had one or two other less-used and more specialized services) or emergency drop-ins (pretty limited availability for these). They required referral from a doctor for any initial normally-scheduled appointments and had varying but generally long to extensive initial wait times for these appointments (I think it took me about 2-3 weeks with a referral in hand, active support from the counselor, and another factor in my favor - plus that was during a period where wait times were actually pretty low - it quickly turns into literally months if you start the process at a worse time!). I'm pretty sure that these appointments were partially subsidized by the university in some way for reasons I won't go into detail on (not important to know the details), and they may have benefited a bit further w.r.t. costs from their associations with the school's medical school and major teaching hospital network, but anyways the end result was that all students could see psychiatrists for "free" (your provincial or international student insurance covered all charged costs - no limits), and psychologists for "free" with somewhat stingy and quite strict/hard yearly limits on coverage (this being on the insurer's level - the basically-mandatory (but cheap) supplemental insurance for people covered by provincial insurance (which does not cover therapy along with a few other important things) or international student insurance for people covered by that).

Keep in mind that this was all in a major Canadian city where wait times for a psychiatrist were literally 1-2 years unless you paid quite a bit to see one privately. So having these resources available on-campus exclusively for students with no per-visit fees was a much bigger deal than it is in the US, even when those resources are more than a bit overloaded. We also had a pretty comprehensive on-campus health clinic that was also effectively free (same model as the mental health services where they subsidize things enough that they can charge insurer-accepted price for normally higher-cost service) - again a much bigger deal when the external health system is generally overloaded, sucks, etc (it was quite a mess), although the health clinic was a mixed bag as same-day/drop-in appointments there were not at all easy to obtain (far worse than mental health services - they'd often fill all their slots within a few hours of opening, sometimes even faster - students would often start waiting as much as an hour or two prior to opening) and many students resorted to off-campus same-day/drop-in clinics, typically private ones that charged more than insurance covers (screwing you over for as much as $140 after insurance for a single appointment!) but were at least able to provide same-day/drop-in appointments on a relatively consistent basis without hours of waiting next to sick people.

But I suppose I'm veering off track now and have covered your question well enough already, so I'll stop here.

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In my country, a certain EU one, they do in all public universities and in very few private ones. If it isn't available where you live, have a look see if you can find reduced rate or free sessions with people in their final year of studying counselling, or people who have already qualified the academic part of their counselling course but need to get a lot of experience before they become officially accredited.


I hope this helps :)

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When I went to university in New Zealand mental health services were offered (psychologists and psychiatrists) but varied from school to school in how overbooked they were. I went to two different institutions. 

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Where I go to university in Australia we have psychologists, who my friends without mental illness have told me are the most useless excuses for psychologists they've ever met. You can also only see them like 6 times. They gave a speech in my placement unit about managing stress on placement, it was pathetic, it backed up my opinion of them. So, I'd never go to them for my craziness. They are not equipped for anything.

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In the US my experience is Universities and Colleges do offer mental health services. My graduating college offered counseling and psychiatrists. People with serious mental illness were encouraged to establish themselves with the appropriate services from to local community of doc's. This is in line with how they treated serious physical illness, they referred it out, if possible. For those who could not afford or have insurance for a private doc these were psychiatrists. Counseling was always booked for a long time. The encouraged group sessions or seeing student counselors. I would not expect smaller institutions like Community Colleges to offer these services.

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On 1/25/2018 at 11:42 AM, notloki said:

In the US my experience is Universities and Colleges do offer mental health services. My graduating college offered counseling and psychiatrists. People with serious mental illness were encouraged to establish themselves with the appropriate services from to local community of doc's. This is in line with how they treated serious physical illness, they referred it out, if possible. For those who could not afford or have insurance for a private doc these were psychiatrists. Counseling was always booked for a long time. The encouraged group sessions or seeing student counselors. I would not expect smaller institutions like Community Colleges to offer these services.

2

In my experience working in the Community College world, it's becoming more common (at least in my state) for colleges to have 1 or 2 counselors on staff who are available for short-term support but not usually ongoing/formal therapy. Often they have additional responsibilities such as coordinating disability access services, providing career advising and academic advising, and other "student services" work, rather than being full-time mental health counselors. They'll work with students through short-term personal or school-related stresses or bridge the gap until a student can get connected with a longer-term therapist.  

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i'm located in a smaller public polytechnic institute (offers both two-year diploma programs and degree programs) in a major canadian city, and all of my mental health care has been through my school counsellors and psychiatrist. both the counsellors and the psych's services are free for full-time students.

the counsellors were in my experience hit or miss -- the first told me that cutting was a valid way to deal with the anxiety and depression i was dealing with (wtf). second one was excellent, and after seeing me for months (and through suicidal depression), got me to see that what i was dealing with should probably be addressed by the school psych. getting to see him was was kind of fucked up in its own way. i saw a doctor on the campus walk in clinic and told her that my counsellor wanted me to see him, detailing that i was dealing with some major anxiety and depression, and her reply was, "oh, well, he usually deals with more complicated cases." so then i had to trot out the worst or "scariest" of my symptoms to try and convince her i was "complicated"... she finally gave me a referral, and i saw the psych a couple weeks later. his care has been excellent. i meet him every 2 weeks or so for 45 minutes (previously an hour, but it was recently shortened), and he manages my medication as well as providing talk therapy. downside, he's only on campus 2 times a week and not very accessible in a crisis. i did require emergency care in the time before i was seeing the psych, and the clinic staff took wonderful care of me, sending my file and situation to the hospital and then getting me and a friend a taxi over there.

i'm definitely lucky that the services aren't overbooked, but the full-time student population at my school isn't very large. the services i've gotten have been a game changer, and very much the only reason i'm as stable as i am now.

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13 hours ago, echolocation said:

i'm located in a smaller public polytechnic institute (offers both two-year diploma programs and degree programs) in a major canadian city, and all of my mental health care has been through my school counsellors and psychiatrist. both the counsellors and the psych's services are free for full-time students.

the counsellors were in my experience hit or miss -- the first told me that cutting was a valid way to deal with the anxiety and depression i was dealing with (wtf). second one was excellent, and after seeing me for months (and through suicidal depression), got me to see that what i was dealing with should probably be addressed by the school psych. getting to see him was was kind of fucked up in its own way. i saw a doctor on the campus walk in clinic and told her that my counsellor wanted me to see him, detailing that i was dealing with some major anxiety and depression, and her reply was, "oh, well, he usually deals with more complicated cases." so then i had to trot out the worst or "scariest" of my symptoms to try and convince her i was "complicated"... she finally gave me a referral, and i saw the psych a couple weeks later. his care has been excellent. i meet him every 2 weeks or so for 45 minutes (previously an hour, but it was recently shortened), and he manages my medication as well as providing talk therapy. downside, he's only on campus 2 times a week and not very accessible in a crisis. i did require emergency care in the time before i was seeing the psych, and the clinic staff took wonderful care of me, sending my file and situation to the hospital and then getting me and a friend a taxi over there.

i'm definitely lucky that the services aren't overbooked, but the full-time student population at my school isn't very large. the services i've gotten have been a game changer, and very much the only reason i'm as stable as i am now.

 

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