For Parents

Many students come to the Counseling Service when they are faced with general adjustment issues, perhaps marked by anxiety, depression, or homesickness. These are normative, often transitory states.  Starting or returning to college either from home or abroad, brings with it a host of academic, athletic, interpersonal, and often cultural challenges.  The Counseling Service is available to support students through this time of transition and to help introduce them to both student led and college organized programs on campus that might be of support.

Contact Us

If you have any additional questions about the Counseling Service and/or other sources of support for your child both on and off campus, please look through the rest of this website and/or feel free to call us at 207-725-3145.  While we can not discuss specific individuals without consent, the staff is available to answer your general questions and to talk about your concerns. 

Developmental Tasks

Normative psychosocial development for college age students involves the growth of a coherent sense of self that can both work through challenges independently and develop trusting, non-exploitive relationships outside of the immediate family.  The Counseling Service offers a space where students can work to develop their personal values, a sense of self-love, and the ability both to make choices and found relationships on a deepened knowledge of self.  It can be difficult as a parent to watch your child struggle between depending on you and standing on their own.  Invariably, family dynamics will change and everyone will have the opportunity to refine or even redefine their relationships within the family.

Clinical Concerns

Parents are understandably concerned when they notice more dramatic changes in their child's demeanor or performance either academically, emotionally, or socially.  The Counseling Service sees many students with more pronounced difficulties in the areas of social phobia, relationship problems, academic problems, and alcohol and substance abuse.  In addition, we counsel students struggling with more serious problems such as clinical depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and experienced trauma.  We offer a strictly confidential service so that students will feel free to come to us with a wide range of concerns. We do not make any information available to anyone else, at the College or elsewhere, without a signed release from the student. Even the fact that a student is being seen in the Counseling Service is not conveyed to deans, faculty members, or others without the student's written consent. 


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. 

Is My Child Receiving Counseling Services?

If you have expressed concern to your child and want to know if they are seeing someone in the Counseling Service we encourage you to ask them directly. We have found that, in most cases, students are willing to be open with their parents at least to the extent of notifying them that they are in therapy.  The degree to which students are willing to share additional information about what they are discussing in therapy is entirely up to the individual. Staff at the Counseling Service will not disclose whether or not a student is receiving services, much less what they are working on, without the student's written consent.  We want students to feel comfortable sharing information with us knowing that it will be kept in confidence.

Sharing Information About my Child

In order for you to speak directly with your child’s therapist, your child must give their consent before the discussion takes place and be made aware of its content afterwards.  In cases where this is not possible, it may be helpful for you to talk about your concerns with another staff member not directly involved with your child who can maintain a more neutral stance and can insure that your child's confidence has been fully protected.  To contact the Counseling Service please call 207-725-3145.

Transferring Psychiatric Care

If your child has been in treatment some time, is doing fine with their medication, and requires no changes to their prescription, whomever is prescribing at home may continue to provide the service while the student is away at college.

If your child requires or is interested in on-site medication management, our psychiatric consultants are available for all cases that are being actively followed by one of our individual counselors. In select cases, medication management may be offered as a stand alone service without the requirement of concurrent individual counseling.  Providing us with information from the treating doctor or therapist at home will help facilitate a smooth transition of care and avoid duplication of services.

Transfer Counseling Service

Students who are looking to receive counseling on campus as a continuance of work begun at home are encouraged to contact the Counseling Service as soon as possible after arriving on campus to ensure continuity of care.  As requested, or when otherwise appropriate, the Counseling Service may refer a student off campus to receive long-term, intensive psychotherapy requiring more than one session per week.  Establishing a new clinical relationship is most easily done before potential problems present themselves, thus we recommend a proactive approach to initiating treatment.  

Providing us with information from the treating therapist at home will help facilitate a smooth transition of care and avoid duplication of services.  If the student would like their new counselor to speak or correspond directly with their treatment provider at home, they will have to sign a consent form (link to consent to consult form in policy and form section).  The Counseling Service is prepared to work with students experiencing social phobias, relationship problems, academic problems, alcohol and substance abuse, as well as more serious problems such as depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and trauma.  

The Counseling Service strongly believes that individuals who are aware of their psychological needs, and are thoughtfully engaged in both self-care and personal growth, can have uniquely exceptional, purposeful, and successful careers at Bowdoin College. 

Recommended Reading for Parents

  • You're On Your Own (But I'm Here if You Need Me): Mentoring your Child during the College Years by Mary Savage
  • Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years by Karen Levin Coburn
  • The Launching Years: Strategies for Parenting from Senior Year to College Lifeby Laura Kastner
  • When Your Kid Goes to College: A Parent's Survival Guide by Carol Barkin
  • When Kids Go to College: A Parents Guide to Changing Relationships by Barbara Newman and Philip Newman
  • Some Thoughts for Parents by Robert Villas PhD