Sit down with a campus psychologist at University Health Services

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As UC Berkeley students, the state of our mental health isn’t always the best. From protests to midterms, we have to deal with a lot.

As a first-year transfer student, I have found myself at the Tang counseling center seeking support as I made my transition. At the start of the semester my anxiety was incredibly high, but having a counselor has helped me address that. While everyone has to seek out their own distinct forms of self-care, here are some reasons that you might consider meeting with a counselor, and other helpful information about the counseling process.

When it comes to self-care as a UC Berkeley student, here’s what Susan Bell, a licensed psychologist and assistant director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University Health Services had to say. This interview was conducted via email and has been edited for space and clarity.

The Daily Californian: Why should I consider going to talk to a counselor?

Bell: There are any number of reasons someone might seek counseling: academic concerns, adjusting to Berkeley, anxiety, career and major indecision, depression, family conflict grief and loss, isolation and loneliness, relationship issues, roommate conflicts, sexuality concerns.

DC: How do you know if you should talk to a counselor?

Bell: No problem is too big or too small to consider counseling. Sometimes it is difficult for students to know when they need help, especially if they are trying to be independent or strong. Seeking help is not a weakness but a sign of strength. When a student is feeling alone and does not have support or the support that is offered is not helpful. When a student has been trying to solve problems but the things they are trying are not working. When students’ negative feelings (anxiety or sadness) are persistent and pervasive in their lives and interfering with their daily functioning. Certainly, if a student is considering self-harm, counseling is indicated.

DC: What happens during a counseling appointment?

Bell: During counseling visits, the counselor will ask you questions to learn more about you and your situation. They will ask you more about your symptoms as well as how things are going socially and academically. The counselor also may ask you about your personal and family history to understand what you are experiencing in a context. After the counselor has a good sense of who you are and what you are experiencing, they will talk with you about your counseling needs and will make recommendations about the next steps. Depending on the type of counseling, the counselor may be listening to you and offering thoughts about what is going on and where you are getting stuck. Some counseling focuses on helping you develop new strategies and behaviors for managing the issues in your life.

DC: Where should someone start if they want to talk to a counselor?

Bell: They can call to make a phone triage appointment or if the concerns are more urgent, they can stop by CPS during our crisis drop-in hours (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday). Students can drop in at various satellite counseling offices and meet with a counselor as part of our “Let’s Talk” program.

DC: How long are counseling appointments?

Bell: Phone triage appointments (often the first step) are 15 minutes, in-person counseling appointments are 45 minutes, and Let’s Talk visits are variable in length but usually brief (15 to 20 minutes).

DC: How much do counseling appointments cost?

Bell: No fee for drop-in crisis visits or for “Let’s Talk” consultations, initial consultations and four additional sessions, no fee for groups. $15 fee for sessions 5 through 8 (if needed)

Fees for psychiatry visits depend on the student’s insurance plan.

Urgent drop-in counseling is available on the third floor of the Tang Center. You can call counseling and psychological services at 510-642-9494. When the Tang Center is closed, you can call the after hours support line at 1-855-817-5667 or 1-877- 211-3686. The Alameda County’s 24-hour crisis line can be reached at 1-(800) 309-2131.

Even voicing your concerns to a friend may be a good first step. Often, it is a friend who offers to take you to counseling or lends a helping hand that makes all the difference. There are resources available here on campus, so reach out if you need help.

Contact Elise Ulwelling at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @EMarieulwelling.