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For Parents and Families

UH Hilo Home > Student Affairs > Counseling

Many students and families may worry about academic problems, but emotional difficulties with the transitions to and during college are actually very common and can be become barriers to academic success. The Transition Year website provides helpful information for students and their families during this time.

For most young people, college represents independence, exploration and growth, and The Transition Year can help parents and students understand and embrace those transitions. The program also includes specific information and resources for families with a student who has emerging mental health problems or a previously diagnosed condition.

-The Transition Year

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The top 10 things to know about Counseling Services

Common Questions from Parents and Families

Resources for Parents and Families

About Counseling Services

We are staffed by trained, professional mental health counselors. Counseling Services provides individual, couples, and group counseling as well as education, support groups, life coaching, prevention services, and consultation.

The top 10 things to know about Counseling Services are:

  1. Counseling Services are free to students enrolled at UH Hilo.
  2. Students need to call to make their own appointments.
  3. Students are in charge of their records and health information, except in life-threatening situations when counselors are required by law to report concerns.
  4. Counseling Services cannot share information with anyone, including family, friends, professors, and deans, unless the student has signed a Counseling Services consent for release of information form. This is not the same as the FERPA release of information form.
  5. Counselors do not prescribe medications, but they can refer students to Student Medical Services or a local doctor for a medication consult. Counselors will work with students who prefer to recover without the assistance of medication.
  6. Counseling Services does provide assessment for ADHD for the purposes of supporting treatment. There is no charge for this service. Students interested in obtaining assessments for other psychological or learning disorders may be referred to a private psychologist.
  7. Counselors prefer to have copies of records from previous providers, especially in cases that involve a recurring or chronic psychological disorder and/or psychiatric consults.
  8. Counselors cannot send messages to a client for you, or call to ask a client to come in for an appointment. However, counselors do provide appropriate follow-up with clients who have called to schedule an appointment.
  9. Counselors are available to consult with staff from other units, faculty and administrators as needed regarding students of concern to advise them regarding situations or protocol, but not to disclose information about specific students.
  10. Counseling is not provided via email.

Common Questions from Parents and Families

What is counseling? What is the difference between counseling and advising?

UH Hilo Counseling Services provides personal counseling, consultation and coaching in a supportive environment to encourage students to develop their unique potential. Counseling Services provides a safe setting where students can improve mental health and wellness, and define and achieve academic and personal goals. The Advising Center at UH Hilo is focused on guiding and mentoring students to achieve their academic goals.

How can counseling help?

Counselors empower students by helping them find their own solutions, develop new coping strategies, and learn information about human development and mental health matters. While taking to friends and family can help students through many of the ups and downs of college life, professional help before a student is in crisis may help prevent an emergency situation or the development of a mental illness. Counseling is especially useful when students are in distress and their usual coping mechanisms are not working.

What can I do as a parent or family member if I am concerned about my student?

Many students seek counseling on their own, but a parent or family member may be the first to notice that a student is not functioning their best. Students who are struggling or facing new challenges may ask you for help in figuring out what to do. You may find it helpful to learn about the resources available on campus and in the community so that you can encourage and direct your student to utilize these resources. Counseling Services provides professional counseling and prevention programs to students, and as family members, you can consult with us when you have concerns about how best to help your student.

What if I am concerned about my student because I haven't heard from them and I have reason to believe they are struggling with a psychological problem?

If your student is a current client, you can call the counselor to express your concerns. We can listen to what you disclose but cannot provide information to you without consent from our client. We will use that information as we deem appropriate within the context of treatment. Rest assured, we want to help, and will do what we can within the boundaries of our professional role. If your student lives in on‐campus housing, we may recommend that you contact their RA.

Will you let me know if my student develops symptoms of a psychological disorder?

If a counselor believes a client is in danger of harming themselves or others, they will take appropriate action to minimize risks and provide assistance. However, if this is not the case, we do discuss with the client about disclosing to their family and other members of their support system, and work with them to develop or expand their support system.

What if my student is a minor?

If your child is a minor, Hawaii State laws and regulations apply. Your student will need your permission for treatment, and you will be notified if your student is at risk of harming himself or others, or needs hospitalization.

How can UH Hilo support my student who already takes, or may need, medication for a mental health condition?

Our counselors at Counseling Services are trained to be mental health counselors and provide talk therapy. 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. We currently do not have a psychiatrist on staff, however, our nurse practitioner, Heather Hirata, APRN-Rx, FNP-BC, is available for general medical care through the UH Hilo Student Medical Services. Many students who come to UH already taking medication find mail-order prescription services through their home provider easier to manage while they establish care with a local provider.

What if my student is seeing a counselor and stops taking his/her medications?

In cases where clients are taking medications for a psychological, developmental, or learning disorder, counselors may include medication monitoring as part of the treatment plan if students disclose medication use. Clients are referred to Student Medical Services or a local medical provider for prescriptions, medication education, and appropriate follow‐up. Counselors work with clients to be aware of medication effects and side effects, to take medicines as prescribed, and to talk with providers before changing or discontinuing a medication.

How often can my student see a counselor?

Frequency of sessions depends on goals for treatment, which the counselor and client will collaborate on and discuss regularly. Some problems can be addressed in a short time, while require long term, consistent counseling for recovery. Counselors will make recommendations based on research and evidence‐based practices.

What if my student doesn’t like the counselor they are seeing?

They should be encouraged to talk with the counselor about changing to a different counselor. Sometimes this happens due to miscommunication or misunderstandings. Other times, it may be the result of personality differences or preferences. The counselor will work with the client to problem‐solve the situation. Clients always have the option to request a different counselor as long as someone is available who has the expertise to work with that client. If not, the counselor can refer the client to a community provider.

What if my student needs to be hospitalized due to a psychiatric condition?

In that instance, the counselor will discuss the option with the client and decide whether the hospitalization needs to be voluntary or involuntary. 911 and an ambulance service or a taxi may be called, depending on the severity of the situation. Counselors do not transport clients to the hospital. When appropriate, counselors remind clients that they may want to contact family and/or friends, or their local medical provider.

Resources for Parents and Families

Counseling Services

UH Hilo

Off-Campus Resources



Ulifeline Online resource for college mental health www.ulifeline.org/hawaii/

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