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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: If I go to the Counseling Center,  does it mean that something is really wrong with me?

A:Absolutely not! Most students experience pressures and concerns during their college years, and counseling is a resource that can help them cope and make the most  of their time at Barnard. At times, students may experience acute anxiety, depression, or anger, and counseling can help students deal with these feelings as well. Some students have difficulties that require specialized therapy and/or medication, and the Counseling Center can help identify the most appropriate course of treatment and resources.

Q: I don't think my problem is very serious...can I still come to Counseling?

A: Yes! We're here to help students with all kinds of personal concerns and questions, as well as more serious emotional difficulties.

Q: Wouldn't it be better for me to be a stronger person and solve my problems by myself?

A: Recognizing that you have a problem, and taking advantage of every resource to solve it, is a sign of  health, not weakness. Counseling can be a powerful tool that helps you understand yourself and your situation better, so that you can become freer and more self-sufficient.

Q: "I know that you can only come a certain number of times, right? What happens after that? And once you've used up your sessions, can you ever come back?"

A:Because requests for our services are high, the Counseling Center operates on a short-term model.  The average number of visits per year for students who use our services is about 5.8. For some students, however, it's helpful to continue working for a longer period of time. There are a couple of options in these instances: one is to continue in long-term counseling at Barnard by joining a group, and the other is to receive a referral to an individual therapist in the community. We have an extensive referral network made up of therapists in Manhattan with whose work we are familiar, and many of them have sliding fee schedules (meaning that their fees are based on your ability to pay).

About joining a group: okay, so that's probably the last thing that you can imagine yourself doing. Believe it or not, being in a group can be an amazing experience in and of itself, and it is even the best kind of counseling for many students – it's just that most of us aren't used to the idea, so it can seem a little foreign and scary. To others of us, it might not seem so scary, but it doesn't seem like real counseling or therapy. Again, though, it is not only a setting in which people can make real progress toward their goals, it is often the best setting for many of us. (Read our page about groups for more information.)

Q: "Counseling? I've heard that the first thing that they do there is try to give you drugs."

A:Not at all. Although it is true that medication evaluation is one of the services that we offer, the great majority of students with whom we work with do not request or need this service. In counseling sessions, we work with students on all kinds of concerns -- relationships, stress, depression, problems with food, homesickness, you name it – and we believe in this collaborative process as the most important, essential part of what we do. In situations where particular symptoms are present, medication can be a helpful adjunct to this work, and when we think that that might be the case, we owe it to you to suggest it, but this is always a decision that is made in consultation with the student.

By the way, you might be wondering exactly what a medication evaluation is. It is simply an appointment with one of our staff psychiatrists. These appointments are by referral only. It works like this: say you are meeting with a counselor. At some point, one or both of you have the idea that medication might help with the way that you are feeling. Your counselor would then refer you to either Dr. Wu or Dr. Polk for an evaluation, and would help you set up that appointment. During the appointment, you and the doctor would talk about your concerns and symptoms. The doctor would decide if medication were appropriate, and if so, would write you a prescription. You would then schedule follow-up sessions with the doctor so that she/he could monitor your response to the medication. Throughout this process, you would continue your sessions with your regular counselor as well.