Frequently Asked Questions

Who may use Counseling Services?

University of Nevada, Reno graduate and undergraduate students are eligible for our clinical services. Partners of students may also be seen but only as part of couple counseling. Faculty and staff may access any of our professional staff for consultation regarding student concerns.

What should I do in an emergency?

In any emergency involving physical harm or a threat to life, please call 911 (9-911 from a campus phone) or contact the University of Nevada, Reno Police Department Dispatch at (775) 334-COPS (2677) immediately.

If you are experiencing a psychological crisis, you can call or walk-in to Counseling Services between the hours of 8am-5pm Monday through Friday. Let the receptionist know you are requesting a same-day emergency appointment. A counselor will briefly meet with you to determine the best course of action (scheduling an intake appointment with you, referring you to other resources, etc.).

If you are experiencing a crisis and it is after hours, please call: 784-4648.

Does counseling really help?

For most students, counseling does help students make the most of the university experience, both personally and academically. Meeting with a counselor is a chance to explore one's hopes and fears, and determine possible courses of action or resolution in a calm, objective, and confidential setting.

What are the different types of groups?

In therapy groups, the emphasis is on change: changing problematic behaviors, attitudes, and emotions. Participants explore personal problems and concerns with a group of persons who have had similar experiences. Discussion includes both present issues and troubling past events, along with the negative consequences of those events. Therapy groups are safe, confidential, and supportive environments to work through problems, heal old hurts, express emotions, learn more about yourself, receive feedback on how others perceive you, and acquire more effective interpersonal behaviors.

In psychoeducational groups, the emphasis is on education and skill development. Participants engage in semi-structured discussions and exercises, role-play, and giving and receiving feedback, with the group leader functioning as a teacher, trainer, and facilitator. The focus is on acquiring information, learning new skills, and refining existing skills pertaining to a specific topic. Psychoeducational groups usually meet weekly for 4-8 weeks, depending on the topic.

If I am in group therapy, how much personal information do I have to share?

You control what, how much, and when you share with the group. No one will force you to reveal your deepest, most personal thoughts.  Most people find that as they gradually feel safe enough to share what is troubling them, a group can be very helpful and affirming. However, you can also be helped by listening to others and thinking about how what they are saying might apply to you.

Will I need to take medications?

Being seen for psychotherapy by a counselor does not necessarily mean you will need to take medications. Many psychological problems can be successfully treated without the use of medications. If you and your counselor decide that medications should be considered as a adjunct to counseling, your counselor will discuss referral options with you.  You will need to see a physician (such as a psychiatrist) to be prescribed any medications. It is important to let your counselor know about any medications you have already been prescribed.

Does it mean something is terribly wrong with me if I need counseling?

No. Sometimes students at a university find life difficult or overwhelming. A great many life stressors contribute to these feelings. Some examples are academic stress, scheduling and time management, illness or injury, and devastating life events such as abuse, death, or a relationship breakup. There can also be factors inside a person that impact his or her well-being, such as self-esteem, body image, or feeling different or isolated from other people because of some aspect of identity or personality. Almost everyone experiences some times in life when ordinary or extraordinary events become overwhelming.

Does Counseling Services offer court-mandated counseling?

No. It is the policy of Counseling Services not to provide court mandated counseling. We can help to provide you with appropriate referrals in the community.

What services are available for international students?

International students are, of course, eligible for all student services. In addition, we have professional staff member, Shernaaz Webster, who has a special focus on working with international students. Dr. Webster, often joined by other staff, offers a variety of outreach, support group, and brief consultation options for international students, in addition to traditional-style counseling. A particular emphasis is on helping those students adjust to life at University of Nevada, Reno and in northern Nevada in general.

Will counseling help to improve my grades?

For many students, counseling does help in identifying and removing obstacles to doing well academically. For some, it may help improve the overall quality of life and the success of interpersonal relationships, which can often indirectly affect academics.

Do my parents have to know that I am in counseling?

No. Federal and state law prohibits us from acknowledging that you are a client or disclosing any file information with your parent without your specific written permission. An exception to this is for minor students under age 18. Although these individuals are generally afforded the same confidentiality protection as an adult student, there are some limitations that a counselor will be happy to discuss with you. We do require that persons under age 18 have written parental (or guardian) consent to receive our services.

It often happens, however, that our clients find it very helpful for their counselors to speak with a parent, a residential life staff member, or a faculty member. It is up to you and your counselor to discuss what would work best in your particular situation. If you have any questions or concerns about confidentiality, feel free to bring them up with a counselor.

Who will be my counselor?

All of the clinical staff at Counseling Services are licensed (or licensure-in-process) professionals.  They include five psychologists, two marriage and family therapists, two alcohol and drug counselors, and a clinical social worker. In addition, we have a Psychiatric Resident on our staff. Counseling Services is also a clinical training site for Ph.D. students in clinical psychology and M.S.W. students in social work. All of those counselors receive intensive supervision by senior staff. There are no undergraduate trainees at our site. You can be confident that your counselor has the necessary training and experience to effectively help you.

What if I do not feel comfortable with my assigned therapist?

We want you to have a successful experience here. As part of the intake process, we gather information and make assessments partially to facilitate making a good match with the skills and training of various counselors. Even so, occasionally not every such match is a good fit. If you are not comfortable with your assigned counselor, please let us know. Ideally, this would be a concern to discuss with your counselor. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, let our front desk staff know. They will help you get to the right person to make a better arrangement for you.

How long will you keep my records on file?

We follow the state and national guidelines for retaining confidential records. All such records are required to be kept on file for seven years after your last session. If you are a minor, your records will be kept for seven years after you reach the age of 18. After that seven years, your records will be destroyed.

If I think my friend needs help, how do I get him or her to come in and see you?

It can be very difficult when someone you care about is in pain. You might find yourself feeling helpless, frightened, frustrated or angry. It is very hard to make a person seek help if they don't want to or don't feel they need it, and counseling with an unwilling client is usually not very effective. Here are some things you might offer as a friend:

  • Let your friend know that you are concerned. Suggest that he or she make an appointment with a counselor to see if we can be of help. Try to phrase the communication using "I" language, rather than "You" language. For example, "I care about you and I am sad to see you are hurting" rather than "You are in trouble and need help."
  • Offer to sit with your friend while he/she makes an appointment.
  • Offer to accompany your friend to their first appointment, and either wait in the waiting area or go to the appointment with him/her.
  • Call or come into the counseling center yourself, and talk with a counselor about your worries about your friend. You will not need to tell the counselor your friend's name, and you do not necessarily even need to let your friend know you came in. The counselor may be able to offer you suggestions about how to interact more effectively with this friend, as well as to manage your own feelings about the situation.
  • Surf the web or the bookstore for information about your friend's problem(s), and pass it along to your friend. Invite him/her to compare reactions with you about the information, or talk about the information with a counselor.