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Frequently Asked Questions

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What services are offered?

SCS offers free consultation to all matriculated students. SCS also offers individual counseling, couples counseling, and psychiatric services. Students seek help for a variety of concerns, including depression and anxiety, stress and time management issues, difficulties in interpersonal relationships, and struggles with adjustment to the pressures of the academic environment.

Who offers the services?

Holly Vanderhoff, PhD, and Michael Miller, PhD, both licensed clinical psychologists and members of the Department of Psychiatry faculty, co-direct the Student Counseling Service. Our Senior Counselor, Sipho Mbuqe, LMHC, Ph.D., is a licensed mental health counselor and licensed psychologist. Students also may see advanced residents in clinical psychology or psychiatry for services.

Who is eligible for services?

Full and part-time matriculated students at Upstate Medical University are eligible for consultation with SCS. Students on extended leaves of absence (i.e., greater than 6 weeks) are not eligible to initiate services.

Where are the services offered?

Student Counseling is located in the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences building (PBS) at 713 Harrison Street.

When are the services offered?

Student Counseling is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. Most counseling begins on a once-weekly basis.

How do I make appointments?

Initial appointments are made by contacting Student Counseling at 464-3120. Typically initial appointments occur within five business days of the request, although at times of high volume this may be somewhat longer. Once counseling has begun, appointments are scheduled between the student and counselor

How long do appointments last?

Initial consultation appointments last for about 45 minutes. Counseling appointments begin promptly on the hour and last about 45 minutes. If you arrive late to an appointment your counseling session will be shortened.

Are there limitations to services?

Student Counseling works from a short-term model of intervention and typically does not provide long-term treatment for specialized needs or severe mental illnesses. If you need long-term assistance for emotional problems, please contact Student Counseling for assistance with a referral. In addition, Student Counseling cannot provide:

  • mental health assessment or treatment services that are mandated by any professional, disciplinary, or legal party
  • formal evaluations to document learning disabilities or mental health disabilities
  • notes to excuse students from exams or other academic requrements
  • services to students who are taking formal leaves of absence from the University

If you are seeking the above services, please call 464-3120 for assistance with referrals to appropriate providers in the community.

What about confidentiality?

Every aspect of your counseling is treated as confidential. Information cannot be disclosed to a faculty member, administrator, family member, or friend without your written permission. There are several exceptions to this rule in New York State, however. If a counselor believes that you present an imminent threat of harm to yourself or someone else, s/he must disclose this to the appropriate parties. If counselors become aware of child abuse, they are legally required to file a report. Counselors also must release confidential information when ordered to do so by a court of law.

Because Student Counseling is a health care service, information may be shared between Student Health and Student Counseling when medically necessary. Student Health is bound to the same rules of confidentiality as Student Counseling and never shares information with others without the student's written permission.

Residents who provide treatment to medical students and their faculty supervisors will never be placed in an evaluative role with that student in academic or professional settings.

Are records kept in student counseling?

Student Counseling records are brief and maintained securely in an electronic medical record that is separate from that of Upstate or other medical facilities. Records are not accessible to faculty, administration, or other students.

What if I am not happy with my counselor?

If you are not pleased with the help you are getting, please discuss this openly with your counselor. If you still feel that the counselor is not addressing your concerns, you may pursue a change of counselor by contacting Drs. Vanderhoff or Miller at scs@upstate.edu.

Are there any fees for services?

Student Counseling services are free of charge to students. Should a student require psychiatric medications, however, he/she is responsible for the cost of the medication. Students who require specialized psychological assessment (eg, diagnostic testing, disability documentation, etc.) or more intensive mental health services will be referred to another provider for these services and are responsible for the cost of such services.

Does counseling really work?

A large volume of controlled outcome studies suggests that short-term counseling and psychotherapy are effective in reducing problems such as anxiety, depression, and interpersonal conflicts. Counseling can also be effective in teaching skills for better academic and social functioning. In addition, psychopharmacological interventions have been found to successfully treat a range of significant emotional disorders.

When should I seek counseling?

If you have tried unsuccessfully to address a problem on your own and if the problem is interfering with your emotional well-being or quality of life, you might want to consider counseling. Seeking help promptly may minimize adverse effects of current difficulties on your academic, professional, social, and physical functioning.

We encourage you to contact Student Counseling if you desire services, have a suggestion for us, or simply want more information. We look forward to serving you.