Mental Health Service: Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Will my parents be notified that I am coming to the Mental Health Service?

If you are 18 years of age or older, your parents will not be notified of your treatment at the Mental Health Service unless you sign a "Release of Information" form.

Is what I tell you confidential?

Basically, yes.  The Mental Health Service follows all professional standards, state and federal laws to protect your personal information.  For more specific information, review our confidentiality policy.

Do you bill health insurance?

Although most of the Health Center is now billing health insurance for appointments, the Mental Health Service is not.  There is a $25 fee per appointment.  This fee is billed through The Office of Student Financial Services and Cashiering and will show on your student account as "Health Center."  If you purchased health insurance through the Health Center (SHIP), the $25 fee is paid by your insurance carrier. No show fees will be assessed if an appointment is missed or is not canceled or rescheduled within 24 hours.

What if I can't afford the $25 fee for appointments?

If the $25 fee poses a financial hardship for you, please speak with your clinician about this.  The Mental Health Service will provide services to any student, regardless of their ability to pay.

What if my parents pay my student account and I don't want them to find out about my visits to the Mental Health Service?

Please speak with your clinician at the time of your appointment if you are concerned about the fee showing up on your student account.  You can pay the fee at the time of your appointment through the Health Center pharmacy.  Information about your visits to MHS are not released without your permission.

What if I want my clinician to share information with my parents?

Information about all Health Center visits, including Mental Health, is protected and confidential.  Any information about your care, including to parents, can only be released with your written permission. Please speak to your clinician about this and sign a release of information available at the Mental Health Service.  You can specify what information you do and do not want released to your parents.

Which clinician will I see?

You will generally be scheduled with whichever clinician has the first available appointment that matches your schedule. For psychotherapy, your appointment will be with a licensed clinician or a graduate student intern (someone who is almost finished with their PhD or Masters degree and is under the supervision of a licensed clinician).  For a medication evaluation or a medication management appointment, you will be scheduled with a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner. In certain circumstances, we can grant requests for appointments with a specific clinician. Please inform the receptionist of your request when you call for an appointment.  However, you may have to wait longer for an appointment if you wish to meet with a specific clinician.

How long will I have to wait for a first appointment?

The Mental Health Service is committed to minimizing wait times as much as possible. The wait for a scheduled appointment can vary and sometimes stretch longer than we want depending on the number of students requesting services at any given time in the semester.  The Mental Health Service is always available to respond to emergencies if you are unable to wait for your appointment.  If you feel as though you cannot wait for the next available appointment, please inform the receptionist of this when you call or stop by.

How long will the appointment take?

Psychotherapy appointments last approximately 45 minutes.  First time psychiatric appointments last about 45-60 minutes, and follow up psychiatric appointments take about 15-30 minutes.  The paperwork that needs to be completed prior to the first appointment with any clinician takes 20-30 minutes to complete, so please arrive early if you have not already completed the online questionnaires.

Why do I have to complete the computerized questionnaires?

Completing the intake paperwork prior to your first appointment allows your clinician to gather information about your mental health history and prepare for your session.

Do you have crisis counseling?

Yes.  If you are in an urgent situation, or feel that you cannot wait until the first available appointment, we have a clinician available to respond to urgent situations during our office hours. Students in crisis are seen on a first come, first served basis.  You will need to complete some paperwork prior to meeting with a clinician.  You can find more information about mental health emergencies here.

Can I interview a clinician for a class?

The Mental Health Service will grant requests for interviews whenever possible, however our priority is to care for students' mental health.  We will likely not be able to provide interviews during times of high stress, such as during mid-terms and finals.  You might consider speaking to someone in Health Promotions for more information about general health and mental health issues.

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FAQs about Psychotherapy

What is psychotherapy?  How does it help?

Check out the following links for more information:

How long can I meet with a therapist?  What if I need more treatment than the Mental Health Service offers?

Since every situation is different, we do not have a set number of times that a student can be seen by one of our therapists.  However, MHS services are primarily short term and we refer many students to therapists in the community.  Your therapist will work with you to evaluate what would be the best treatment plan for your personal situation.  Students who are assessed to need more intensive care than MHS provides will be offered referrals to more appropriate treatment options, including clinicians or programs in the community.  MHS will always provide emergency and crisis care for students.

Can I see a therapist in MHS and still see my therapist from home?

Usually, we will advise you to see one therapist at a time.  However, there are special circumstances in which we may make an exception.  Please speak with your MHS clinician if you have concerns about this.

What if I feel that I am not a good match or I'm not comfortable with my clinician?

Please talk with your clinician about your discomfort and what isn't working for you.  If you don't feel comfortable appproaching the clinician directly, let the receptionist know that you'd like to make a first appointment with a different therapist.

I'm a parent of a student and suspect that my daughter or son could benefit from professional help and support.  What do I do?

We recommend that you express your reasons for concern to your child in a straightforward, yet loving, and supportive way. It might be helpful to say something like, “I am worried about you. You just don't seem to be yourself lately. Have you thought about going to talk to someone about your concerns? I think it would be really good for you to talk with an objective person who can help you sort out what ever is bothering you. Will you call the Health Center and make an appointment?”

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FAQs about Psychiatry & Medication

Who are psychiatrists?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has had at least four years of additional training after medical school in the field of psychiatry.  Psychiatrists at the Mental Health Service are board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and are licensed by the state of Maryland.

Who are Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners?

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs) are masters or doctorally-prepared advanced practice registered nurses that assess, diagnose, and prescribe medications to treat individuals and families with psychiatric disorders.  PMHNPs are board-certified in their area of specialty by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and are licensed by the Maryland State Board of Nurses.  Nurse Practitioners, in general, are held to the same legal and ethical standards of care as physicians and work independently and in collaboration with physicians.  

What happens when I meet with a mental health prescriber?

During the evaluation, you will be asked about your general health as well as your emotional health.  Please be prepared to provide information about any medications (prescription, over the counter, supplements or herbal) you are taking. You will be asked about medical conditions, family medical and psychiatric history, and allergies.  It is also important to let your clinician know about any history of seizures, head injuries, eating disorders, and alcohol or substance use as these can impact medication.  If at the end of the evaluation, the prescriber thinks medication would be beneficial, he/she will make specific recommendations, discuss possible side effects, provide instructions for taking the medication and answer any questions or discuss any concerns you may have.  Then a follow up appointment will be scheduled to discuss how well the medication is working and if any modifications are needed.

If you have had prior psychiatric treatment, either outpatient or in a psychiatric hospital, it would be helpful to bring a copy of your records with you to the appointment.

What if I just need medication?

Some people who are stable on psychiatric medication only need occasional follow up visits and medication monitoring.  However, many people do best when they combine psychotherapy and medication management.  Therefore, your prescriber may recommend that you see a psychotherapist in addition to taking medication.

Will I become a different person if I take medication?

No. Most people who take medications are glad to feel like themselves again and experience relief when symptoms of anxiety, depression, etc. are significantly reduced.

Is it a sign of weakness to take anti-depressant medication?

No. As with any serious illness, dealing with depression takes great personal strength. Nonetheless, you may be exposed to negative attitudes about anti-depressant medications, which vary among individuals and cultures.

Many students have found it helpful to take the perspective that medication is one form of treatment for depression, just as medication may be used to treat allergies, asthma, infections or diabetes.

Will I become addicted to anti-depressant medication?

No.  However, you should never discontinue your medication abruptly.  Always talk to your prescriber first before discontinuing any medication.

How long will I need to take medication?

It is generally recommended that an anti-depressant be taken for a minimum of 9 to 12 months. This is because there is a high probability that symptoms will recur if the anti-depressant is stopped sooner. All medications should be monitored by a health care provider and stopped only under their direction.

How does the prescriber decide what medication is best for me?

Medication decisions are made based on several criteria, including particular difficulties you are having, other medications you are taking, any medical problems you may have and even medication effects in other family members.

Why did the psychiatrist/psychiatric nurse practitioner prescribe one antidepressant for me, but a different one for someone else?

Responses to medication are highly individualized. A medicine that works well with one person may work very differently in a second person.

Some FAQs credited to University of Michigan Counseling & Psychological Services

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