College years can be challenging for both students and families. It is a time for students to develop independence and individual identities, and can be fun, exciting, intimidating, and yet lonely. Your student may encounter challenges during their college years, and most of these will be predictable and usual. However, when challenges become overwhelming, the Psychological Counseling Center (PCC) can be a valuable resource for helping students to navigate their struggles.
If your student wants to begin psychotherapy when in residence at New Paltz, encourage them to contact the PCC to schedule an Intake appointment. During this initial appointment, PCC staff will assess if group therapy, short-term individual therapy, or referral to an open-ended practitioner would be most helpful for your student's transition to college.
The Psychological Counseling Center usually begins scheduling appointments when classes begin, so encourage your student to call or walk in early in the semester if possible. We do not begin scheduling for the next semester over summer or winter breaks, as student class schedules may change last minute, or orientation events may interfere with a previously scheduled appointment.
In most circumstances, students must schedule an appointment or present for a walk-in session themselves. However, family and guardians are always welcome to consult with a PCC counselor on how to encourage their student to seek services, or for assistance in assessing the severity of a student’s concerns.
Students who are hesitant or anxious about scheduling an intake appointment may benefit from attending our Let’s Talk program, where they can speak briefly and casually with a PCC counselor to find out more about therapy options.
If your incoming student already has a therapist, we recommend that this topic be discussed as a part of therapy, with the knowledge that services at PCC are short term in nature.
The PCC suggests that students keep their current therapist, as long as they have a positive relationship and are able to continue treatment virtually. That being said, our First Year and Transfer Student Initiative gives special recognition to the particular needs and challenges of these students' adjustment to the college community, and thus students who already have a therapist may still schedule an intake with the PCC in order to determine if supplemental support is needed. While many students do well with virtual therapy, we have found that face-to-face sessions with someone knowledgeable about the SUNY New Paltz campus can help build even more feelings of connectedness and belonging. Students may be referred to one of our groups, or may work one-on-one with a counselor on brief issues such as adjusting to campus, finding local resources, or navigating campus policies and culture. Students are also always able to access crisis intervention services, even if they are already connected with an off-campus therapist.
If your student is unable to continue treatment with their current provider, they are welcome to contact the PCC to schedule an Intake appointment. PCC staff will discuss the student’s history and current concerns, and assess if group therapy, short-term individual therapy, or referral to an open-ended practitioner would be most helpful for your student's transition to college. If open-ended counseling is most appropriate, PCC staff can facilitate a referral to a private practitioner. There are many therapists within walking distance of campus who routinely work with college students, as well as a large number of virtual providers (locally or near a student’s home) who specialize in working with emerging adults and college adjustment.
Although college is an exciting time, it is also very new and therefore may be stressful. This is most often NOT a good time to stop therapy or to stop medication! Talk with your student openly about this adjustment period, and consider reassessing therapy and/or medication after their first semester, or possibly after their first full year.
Every student responds to the challenges of college differently. If this is the first time your student has left home for any period of time, the transition may include periods of feeling lonely, isolated, apprehensive, and insecure. It is important to listen to your student's feelings and reinforce personal strengths. Some families may need to encourage a student to get involved with their peers in campus activities, others may need to help their student set boundaries around socializing and find ways to focus on academics. Remember the personality of your student, and have a direct conversation if you notice any significant changes. Talk with your student about identifying resources, and encourage them to initiate asking for help.
Family members and students can work together to develop a new, more adult relationship of mutual respect, sharing stories, and enjoying the college years. Family still represents important guidelines for decision making, even as your student matures towards adult independence. Remember, this can be an adjustment for you and the whole family too!
Homesickness is a longing for home, familiarity, and security, and may be experienced as physical symptoms of nausea and sleeplessness, and psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Speaking directly to your student about losses and sadness may decrease feelings of homesickness. It is also important to encourage your student to establish a sense of security in the new environment, by developing new friendships, connecting with faculty members, or speaking with the Resident Assistants (RAs), Orientation Leaders (OLs), or peer mentors.
Homesickness, regarded as a typical part of the transition to college, may occur within the first six weeks, or as late as the second semester of the first year. If you live within traveling distance, encourage your student to stay on campus during weekends as much as is reasonable for them, as sometimes the transitions between school and home can be more disruptive than staying and working through these feelings. You can also work with them to set time limits regarding their visits and calls, for example, planning to stay on campus until the first fall break in October. Referral to the PCC is suggested if the symptoms begin to interfere with the student's functioning.
The PCC has a collaborative relationship with the psychiatric emergency departments of the area hospitals, namely MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie, HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston, and sometimes Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie. When the PCC is involved with a student's transport to the hospital, we encourage the student to inform a family member about the transport. PCC staff will make every effort to obtain consent to include family support during this time, however policies regarding student confidentiality still apply. Once at the hospital, the student will be asked by hospital staff to inform family member(s) about the hospitalization or emergency room visit. If the student is admitted to the hospital, the hospital's clinical social worker works to facilitate the student's contact with family.
When a student is hospitalized for mental health reasons, there is a protocol established through the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs to inform professors of a student's absence from classes. PCC staff typically initiates this process, and can also help students follow up with their professors, EOP counselors, coaches, etc. once they have been discharged.
The PCC encourages family members to contact us at 845-257-2920, to discuss these concerns. Frequently, PCC staff will coordinate with the Resident Director (if the student lives on campus) to facilitate support for your student. If your student lives off campus, specific supportive strategies will be discussed with the family, including contact with their professors.
The PCC interdisciplinary professional staff may include licensed social workers, licensed psychologists, licensed mental health counselors, and a consulting psychiatrist. Our consulting psychiatrists are NYS licensed and specialize in adolescent treatment, with extended experience in college student mental health issues.
The PCC is the college's primary training site for the graduate-level mental health counseling program. Additionally, graduate trainees in mental health counseling, social work, and psychology doctoral candidates from other schools, may intern at the PCC as well. All trainees at the PCC provide counseling only under the clinical supervision of PCC senior staff.
The PCC adheres to the ethical, professional, and confidentiality guidelines associated with the professions of our clinicians, including social work, mental health counseling, psychology, and psychiatry.
ALSO SEE: Untying the Apron String, a program presented by Dr. Gweneth Lloyd, Director of the Psychological Counseling Center.