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Frequently Asked Questions

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What services are offered?

SCS offers free initial consultation to all matriculated students. Recommendations for further services, if appropriate, are made after that consultation. Ongoing services may include short-term counseling, individual psychotherapy, and psychiatric services. SCS also offers outreach and preventative programming.

Who offers the services?

Services are offered by licensed clinical psychologists, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and a post-doctoral fellow in clinical psychology. Students may also see psychology residents in their final year of PhD training for services.

Who is eligible for services?

All matriculated students at Upstate Medical University are eligible for initial consultation with SCS. Students on extended leaves of absence (i.e., greater than 6 weeks) are not eligible for services and will be referred to the community.

Where are the services offered?

Services are offered in-person at the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Building at 719 Harrison St. and remotely via WebEx (please note, the student must be physically within New York state to engage in SCS services).

When are the services offered?

Student Counseling is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. Some clinicians maintain schedules that allow for appointments earlier or later than these times.

How do I make appointments?

Initial appointments are made by contacting Student Counseling at 464-3120. Typically we are able to offer an initial appointment within five business days of the request, although at times of high volume (e.g., early fall) this may be longer. Ongoing services usually occur on a weekly basis and are scheduled between the student and clinician.

How long are sessions?

Initial consultation appointments and individual counseling or therapy appointments last for about 45 minutes. Medication management visits may be shorter. If you arrive late to an appointment your session will be shortened or rescheduled.

Are there limitations to services?

SCS works from a short-term model of intervention and typically does not provide long-term (eg, greater than 12 months) treatment. If you need or want long-term treatment, SCS can assist you with a referral to the community. In addition, SCS cannot provide:

  • Mental health assessment or treatment services that are mandated by any third party, including a court of law, University administration, or any professional or disciplinary body
  • Formal evaluations to document learning disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, or the need for an emotional support animal
  • Notes to excuse students from exams or other academic requirements due to mental health concerns
  • Services to students who are taking a formal leave of absence from the community

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

What about confidentiality?

Clinical information is kept confidential and is legally privileged. Information cannot be disclosed to any other party without your written permission. There are several exceptions to this rule in New York State, however. If a clinician believes that you present an imminent threat of harm to yourself or others, we must disclose this to the appropriate parties, which may include emergency services, your emergency contact, or, if the concern would directly affect the University, the Dean of Student Affairs or the Director of Student Health. If counselors become aware of child or elder abuse, they are legally required to file a report. Clinicians also must release confidential information when ordered to do so by a court of law.

Because SCS 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.

Are records kept in Student Counseling?

Yes. Law and ethical professional practice require us to maintain a record of our services. These records are 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 clinician?

If you are not pleased with the help you are getting, please discuss this openly with your clinician. This provides the best chance of you having a more helpful experience. If you still feel that your concerns are not addressed, please contact Dr. Vanderhoff at 315-464-3120 to discuss your concerns and options.

Can I choose my own clinician?

Students are paired with clinicians based on clinical need and staff availability; for this reason, SCS does not provide the option to choose which clinician to see. Sometimes, students ask to work only with a clinician of a particular gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnicity. Usually, this is out of concern that someone different from the student might not be able to understand or work well with the student. SCS provides culturally-sensitive services and seeks to provide an environment in which students feel safe exploring difficult personal issues; however, this safety is based on much more than a therapist’s demographics. Judging a clinician’s potential effectiveness solely by their demographics is harmful to both student and clinician. For these reasons, Student Counseling does not practice demographic-based “matching” of students with therapists.

Are there any fees for services?

Services are free of charge, although students are responsible for the cost of any prescribed medications or labwork related to medication management.

Does therapy really work?

A large volume of controlled outcome studies suggests that psychotherapy is effective in addressing problems such as anxiety, depression, and interpersonal conflicts. In addition, psychopharmacological interventions have been found to successfully treat a range of mental health disorders.

How do I know if I need services?

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, that’s a good time to consider seeking more help.