Frequently Asked Questions
Over the course of their college careers, over 40% of Bowdoin students will seek out the support of the Counseling Service. Some students only meet with a counselor a few times, effectively addressing the concerns that brought them in. Others, choose to continuing counseling for more extended periods of time either to address issues of deeper concern or to increase productivity, calm, and value in their daily lives. Students initially contact the Counseling Service for a number of different reasons including:
- Concerns about important relationships
- Feelings of anxiety or panic
- Feelings of depression, hopelessness, or suicidality
- Disruptions in sleep
- Sex, sexual identity, or sexual orientation
- Experienced trauma including but not limited to assault and rape
- Eating, weight, or body image
- Drug or Alcohol Use
- Challenging life decisions
- Performance or creative blocks
- Motivation and achievement (academic, athletic…)
- Adjusting to college
- Adjusting to a new language or culture
- Coping with a physical illness, disability, or injury
- Coping with learning disabilities
- Continued treatment begun at home
- To develop and build upon personal strengths
There are two possible ways to schedule appointments with a Counseling Service counselor or psychiatrist:
By Phone: Please call 725-3145 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday to speak with Administrative Coordinator Lindsay Jacobs, or leave a voice mail with her at any time.
In Person: Please come in anytime during our business hours. Note: the office is closed noon - 1p.m. daily. We are located at 32 College Street.
We accommodate requests for initial appointments as soon as possible, usually within 5-7 days, depending on staff and student schedules. Please note that while we will do our best to honor a student's wish to meet with a specific staff member, this is not always possible.
Generally, an initial appointment with a counselor is necessary to determine appropriate referrals to off-campus services. As requested, or when otherwise appropriate, Counseling Service staff will make referrals to other mental health professionals, usually for specialized psychological testing, individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, or private psychiatric medication management. Please call the Counseling Service at 725-3145 to discuss referral to an off-campus clinician. Information about referrals is considered confidential.
Important: You must get a referral from the Counseling Service for an off-campus mental health provider if you have the Bowdoin College Insurance Plan; otherwise, your sessions will not be paid for.
Your initial visit to Counseling Services will be 30 minutes long. Before this appointment, you will be asked to read through and sign Counseling Services' informed consent form in order to ensure that you are well aware of our policies regarding confidentiality and communication. You will also be asked to fill out an intake questionnaire to help guide both you and your counselor in matching you with appropriate services.
During your first visit, you will spend time with a counselor discussing your immediate concerns. This will help both you and your counselor to decide how the Counseling Service can best serve you. Services that may be offered include individual counseling, group counseling, psychoeducational classes, and/or an appointment with a consulting psychiatrist at the Counseling Service. Your counselor may also discuss additional resources both on and off campus that may be of support to you. These include student led organizations, wellness classes, college organized programs, and both on-line and community based resources. In some circumstances, you may be referred to an off-campus provider for longer term, intensive therapy or some other mental health expertise not offered at the Counseling Service.
During your initial visit, you will also have time to:
- Share your schedule to identify possible appointment times for continued treatment
- Ask any questions you might have regarding confidentiality or counseling in general
- Make known any therapist preferences
If it is mutually decided that additional individual sessions at the Counseling Service are needed, you will be assigned to one of the staff counselors for this purpose. This counselor may or may not be the same person you saw during your initial appointment. Counseling sessions are scheduled for a maximum of 50 minutes. You have the right to request to change to a different counselor if you desire. During an early visit with your counselor, you will decide the goals of your work and the approximate length of the counseling contract. Because of the large number of students requesting counseling, the Counseling Service generally provides short-term therapy.
Every effort is made to match students interested in individual counseling with a counselor as soon as possible following their initial appointment. However, given the demand for services, a waitlist may be generated. Students are put on a waitlist if and when Counseling Service staff have no current availability and if there are no available services within the community to which the student wants to be referred. The waitlist is reviewed by staff as space becomes available and students are kept informed regarding service availability by the counselor with whom they had their initial appointment.
If a student's concerns worsen while he/she is on the waitlist, the student should contact either the counselor with whom they had their initial appointment or Counseling Services' Administrative Coordinator, Lindsay Jacobs, at 725-3145 to schedule an emergency appointment.
Visits to the Counseling Service are provided free to all Bowdoin students. In addition, all appointments with Counseling Service psychiatrists are free to Bowdoin students. The Bowdoin Accident and Sickness Plan provides a $1,000 per year RX plan; brand names have a co-pay of $20, generic drugs $10 for a 30-day supply. Students covered by a parent's health insurance will have to confirm their medication coverage. Bowdoin insurance or a student's own family insurance will cover most visits to an off-campus clinician. Psychological/ neuropsychological assessments are also covered by most insurances. Please discuss any off-campus referral option or coverage for that service with your therapist to best understand the coverage.
Confidentiality is a central value at Counseling Services. Creating a trusting environment by respecting student privacy encourages honesty on the part of the student and helps create a safe, trusting environment for the process of psychotherapy. As counselors, we work to respect a student's trust and keep session information private by restricting access to records and other forms of information. Counselors may discuss students in a supervisory setting within the Counseling Service. However, information will not be given to anyone outside the Counseling Service without a student's Formal Consent or permission. This includes parties who may contact Counseling Services out of concern for a student including parents, teachers, deans, or coaches. In the case where a student is receiving coordinated support from both Counseling Services and Health Services (i.e.: disordered eating, head trauma), information will be shared among treatment team members in a secure format.
There is only one exception to the rule of confidentiality. Law and professional ethics require us to intervene when, in our judgement, there is imminent risk of danger to harm self or others, for example, suicide, assault, and child or elder abuse. In emergencies when someone is physically at risk, confidentiality must take second place; however, we would discuss the alternatives with you before taking any action that might breach confidentiality. Any questions a student has regarding our confidentiality policy can and should be brought up at their initial intake appointment.
A personal commitment is crucial to the success of counseling. Please keep all of your scheduled appointments. If you need to cancel, do so as far in advance as possible. To cancel an appointment you may either call your personal counselor directly or speak with Counseling Service's Administrative Coordinator, Lindsay Jacobs, at 725-3145. If you “no-show” for an appointment, and do not call within 48 hours to reschedule, your appointment time may be assigned to another student. A series of missed appointments may necessitate referral to an off-campus provider.
When a dean or faculty member becomes concerned about a student's well being, they may refer that student to the Counseling Service for a single consultation appointment. Reasons for referral have included poor attendance in classes, demonstrable or communicated distress, and changes in behavior or appearance. A referral to the Counseling Service is not a punishment, judgment, or indictment; it is rather an offer for additional support made out of concern for your well being. After an initial consultation appointment with a counselor, the student determines whether or not they would like to continue with counseling. The rules of confidentiality apply to this initial meeting and any subsequent sessions; communication with the referring faculty or staff about your engagement in counseling would only be made with your expressed consent. Whether or not the student chooses to continue counseling, resources within the community may be explained and offered as additional sources of support.
It is difficult to watch a friend in distress; it can be even more difficult deciding what to do to help them. If and when you find yourself in this situation, the Counseling Service offers brief consultations to help you better understand your concerns about your friend, the dynamics of the situation, community resources, and possible plans of action. The Counseling Service also offers more in-depth workshops for groups of students sharing common concerns.
Whether or not you choose to seek support from the Counseling Service in person, the following outline is offered to help you think about how to most effectively identify and engage with a friend in need of added support.
How to Help a Friend
If you ever become concerned about a roommate, teammate, or friend, you may hesitate to do anything for fear of making things worse or simply because you don't know what to do. Below are some guidelines about what to do if and when that situation arises. We'll discuss what observable behaviors may signal concern, how to engage with a friend in distress, and how to connect both them and yourself with supportive resources on campus. In our experience, after having weathered a crisis, clients often identify a friend's genuine expressions of concern as having been pivotal in helping them to get the help that they needed.
Signs of Distress
Everyone experiences distress. It can be difficult to manage academic and athletic challenges, interpersonal relationships, and changing family dynamics. More often than not, the distress we experience is temporary and circumscribed. At times, we all exhibit one or more of the behaviors listed below. However, when several of these behaviors occur at once, if they become debilitating, or if they persist over time they may signal more severe difficulties that warrant professional help.
- Deterioration of physical appearance or personal hygiene
- Excessive fatigue or sleep difficulties
- Skipping class or absence from other activities
- Difficulty completing schoolwork or other obligations
- Avoidance of friends or uncharacteristic social isolation
- Marked decrease in concentration, motivation or energy
- Visible increase or decrease in weight
- Looking sad, worried or preoccupied
- Irritability or temper outbursts
- Impulsive behavior or acting with poor judgement
- Direct statements about problems with family or friends
- Statements of hopelessness or comments about death, self-harm or suicide
Approaching a Friend
It can be uncomfortable to approach a friend about their well being. You may worry about invading their privacy, making things worse, or you may simply not know what to say. If you are genuinely concerned about somebody, it is okay to express interest or concern – they can always decline to talk with you if they are uncomfortable. Whatever the case, your expression of genuine concern may be what your friend needs to seek help, if not from you, from someone else. Below are some pointers for initially approaching a friend about whom you are concerned.
- Choose a time and a place that is most likely to ensure privacy.
- Let your friend know you are concerned in terms of their own worries or needs.
- For example, if they have expressed sadness or worry, reflect that back to them, let them know that they have been heard, validate their feelings, and offer sincere empathy.
- If you have noticed any of the behaviors listed above, share what you have observed and explain why this worries you.
- Avoid labeling your friend or their behavior. Whether accurate or inaccurate, telling someone that they have a disorder or “are” a certain way may trigger defenses that keep them from getting help.
- If your friend isn’t interested in talking, explain that you are open to talking at another time if and when they are interested.
- Remind your friend of supportive resources available on campus including counseling services.
- If your friend has doubts or questions, looking at this website can be a good first step to learning more about supportive services and to seeking help.
- Offering to walk your friend to the Counseling Service may help them with the initial step of seeking support
- Reassure your friend (and yourself) that a referral to counseling services is not a refusal of your help; it is an offer for increased support from impartial professionals that have added knowledge and experience.
- Avoid making promises of absolute confidentiality. If your friend is a risk to themselves or others, it is important that you seek professional help right away. Student safety is a primary concern. You can:
- Promise that you care about their well-being, respect their autonomy, and won't divulge their confidence unless you are afraid for their safety.
- Promise that if they want to share something personal with you, you will do everything you can to safeguard it and help them to deal with whatever it is.
Talk of Suicide or Violence
You should never ignore a student's comments or behavior regarding suicide or violence. Don't assume that these are only jokes, ploys for attention, or that they are just passing moods. If you are not comfortable talking directly to your friend or you feel he/she is not responding, bring your concerns to someone at counseling services, your dean, or your residence hall supervisor. While students who talk or behave in suicidal or in violent ways certainly need your sympathy and support, don't assume that this is all they need. Individuals who have difficulty managing their feelings and impulses may require professional counseling and/or medication.
Take Care of Yourself
Engaging with someone in distress, whether as their confidant or simply as their friend, can be stressful. In addition to feelings of sympathy and a desire to help, you may also feel stressed, helpless, fatigued and even angry or resentful. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by a situation, you can call Counseling Services and receive a confidential consultation regarding your friend. Remember, while you may play a very special role in your friend's life, there are other caring individuals on campus who may be able to offer them support that you can't. It is not your role to solve your friend's problem, but to help them access resources that enable them to solve it themselves.
Consultations and other services are free and available for all Bowdoin students. All information shared in counseling is kept confidential. The office hours are Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. during the academic year, a counselor is also available for emergencies after hours.
Counseling Service: 207-725-3145
Health Service: 207-725-3770
Campus Security: 207-725-3314