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FAQs about Counseling

Have questions? Get some answers!


What is the difference between The Advising Center, Career Development, and Counseling Services?

Counseling Services focuses on providing personal and psychological counseling and psychoeducation to encourage students to develop their unique potential. These services range from individual and group counseling to pyschoeducational workshops and outreaches. The Advising Center provides academic guidance and the Career Development can help with occupational exploration and student job placement.

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How much does it cost for counseling services, and how does it work?

Counseling services are Free for all UH Hilo students. The initial appointment is called an "intake", and is generally 75 minutes since there is some initial paperwork including consent forms. During this time, you and the counselor can get to know each other and you can talk about your concerns and get an idea of how counseling can help. In the next sessions, you will develop goals for yourself and work with the counselor to make a plan for how to achieve those goals. The average student attends 5 sessions, but some students have many more sessions, while others attend only one session, and still others come and go throughout their time at UH Hilo.

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How is talking to a counselor different from talking to a friend or family member?

Social connections are very important and vital to a healthy life, so reaching out and talking to a friend or family member can help us feel much better. A counselor is a trained professional who is an expert in mental health and mental wellness. Counselors know the difference between being a little down, and having a depressive disorder that requires more intensive treatment. Counselors generally do not give advice, and instead provide a safe, confidential space for a person to explore their own solutions.

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How do I know if I should go to counseling, or if counseling could help me?

Students seek counseling for a variety of reasons such as adjusting to university life, learning healthy ways to cope with stress, enhancing personal relationships, creating balance in their lives, treating depression, anxiety & substance use, coping with crisis, or requesting psychiatric referral. While just about anyone could benefit from taking the time to reflect on his or her life to gain insight or to increase self-awareness, there are many people for whom participating in therapy or other counseling services would improve their quality of life. We recommend that a student contact Counseling Services if distress in your life has recently increased or if your overall life satisfaction is not where you want it to be.

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Don't you have to be crazy to go to counseling?

No! Unfortunately, there is significant stigma surrounding mental health issues and mental health care in our culture, and college students seem particularly unlikely to seek help when they need it. While we can easily talk about brushing our teeth, going to the dentist or getting a cavity, many people do not feel comfortable talking about ways to stay mentally healthy, going to the counselor or therapist, or having a panic attack. All of us go through ups and downs in life, and counselors can help clients through the hard times. In fact, going to a counselor before you "go crazy" may help prevent a mental illness from developing. Mental illnesses are very common, and also very treatable. About 1 in 4- 5 adults had a mental health condition (excluding substance use disorders) during a recent study in the US (ActiveMinds Mental Health in College Students ). The statistics are about the same for untreated cavities.

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How many students usually go to counseling?

In an average 25 person class, about 2 students will visit Counseling Services each year, and many more will participate in presentations, workshops, and outreach events.

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What if people find out that I went to counseling?

Counseling Services adheres to professional ethical standards and all state and federal laws regarding confidentiality. All information is confidential unless you sign a written release of information for a specific person or agency. There are some rare circumstances in which we are legally required to break confidentiality, such as knowledge of intent to harm self or others. In these cases, Counseling Services either has reporting responsibilities or has to intervene in some way. For a more complete explanation, please read the Counseling Services informed consent form.

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I take medication for my mood or other mental health condition. Can Counseling Services help me?

Our counselors at Counseling Services are trained to be mental health counselors and provide talk therapy. We work closely with Student Medical Services that can prescribe and manage medication. Counseling Services and Medical Services work collaboratively to provide mental health treatment for students as part of a treatment unit under the Student Health and Wellness Programs.

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If I go to counseling, do I have to share everything about my life and my family?

No! You can talk story about your day, or you can talk about your deepest secrets. It is a myth that if you go to a therapist, you will have to talk about your parents or your past. What you share in counseling is totally up to you. You decide what goals you have for going to counseling, and together, you and the counselor can decide how to help you achieve your goals. For example, if you are shy and have a goal of becoming more outgoing, some of the things you might decide to do with the counselor could be: chatting about what being shy means for you, practicing how to introduce yourself to new people, learning ways to relax so that you don't panic when you meet new people, or talking about the time you were bullied in 4th grade. It is all up to you.

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What if I am concerned about a friend?

Give us a call. You can come to Counseling Services and consult with a counselor about your friend's situation. Counselors can also support you so that you can continue to be there as a support for your friend. The Ulifeline website may also have some useful information for you about how to help a friend.

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We are happy to answer any other questions you may have. Please contact us.


Ulifeline Online resource for college mental health

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Counseling Services are free and confidential for all UH Hilo students. We welcome questions, comments and feedback about our website at uhhcouns@hawaii.edu.