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Frequently Asked Questions

The Counseling Center is the primary mental health agency on the American University (AU) campus, offering a variety of free and confidential services to the campus community.

The Counseling Center provides initial consultation appointments, Urgent Care Drop-In Hours (M-F, 2-4pm), time-limited individual counseling, group therapy, workshops and presentations, consultations, referrals to off-campus private care, and mental health resources (both online and on-site).

All services offered by the counseling center are completely free of charge.

Call the Counseling Center front desk (202-885-3500) or stop by Mary Graydon 214 to schedule an initial consultation appointment. You can also stop by to meet with a clinician for a brief (triage) appointment during Urgent Care Drop-In Hours (M-F, 2-4pm).

Yes! Any currently enrolled AU student - full-time or part-time, undergraduate, graduate or law student - can schedule an initial consultation appointment, meet with a clinician during Urgent Care Drop-In Hours, attend a workshop, or utilize any mental health informational resources offered by the Center. Most students are also eligible to engage in short-term individual therapy or group therapy within the center. 

Incoming students can begin accessing services during welcome week. However, incoming students can begin contacting the Counseling Center before starting their first semester if they are seeking a referral for off-campus care. In fact, the Counseling Center encourages such students to contact us so that these services are in place before starting at AU.

There are certain types of services that the Counseling Center typically cannot provide such as long-term individual therapy or other specialized services (e.g., inpatient treatment, certain types of psychological assessment). Such services are generally seen as a student’s private health care responsibility, meaning students cover the cost of working with a provider through a combination of insurance benefits and out-of-pocket payments. Counseling Center clinicians can support a student in connecting to an off-campus provider who is maximally affordable, accessible, and appropriate for their needs. To learn more, visit our page about referrals and insurance.

In any emergency involving physical harm or a threat to life while on campus, call the AU Police Department (x3636). For emergencies off campus, call 911. If you are in a residential building on campus, you can also contact the Community Director on duty by calling any residence hall front desk. In case of psychological emergencies during business hours, call AU Police Department (x3636) or the Counseling Center (x3500).

For non-emergency services, students can utilize one of the many crisis counseling services available 24/7.We highly recommend students to use the Collegiate Assistance Program (CAP) (885-678-8679, Pin: 1009) which is staffed by licensed clinicians and crisis intervention specialists. CAP is a confidential service to support students who are feeling overwhelmed, are experincing concerns that may interfere with school and work, or would like support to not engage in high-risk behaviors. Please see our Home page to download a Crisis Card.

Counseling Center policies, ethical principles of mental health professionals, and DC Law all emphasize the importance of protecting client confidentiality. A Counseling Center clinician will not speak with anyone about your confidential concerns without your permission. There are rare exceptions to this, such as situations involving danger to life or safety and situations involving court-issued subpoenas, which a clinician can discuss with you. Students under the age of 18 who voluntarily seek services are generally afforded the same confidentiality as an adult student. 

Despite protections offered by confidentiality, many students find it helpful for their clinician to speak with a parent, staff member, Dean, faculty member, or other mental health professional. If you are interested, you and your clinician can discuss what would work best in your particular situation. Visit our page on confidentiality to learn more. 

The Counseling Center is a nationally-accredited and highly-respected training site, so some of the center’s service providers are doctoral level clinical trainees. This is equivalent, in the field of psychology, to a medical residency. All are closely supervised by professionals and held to the highest standards of practice.

Your first appointment will always be with a psychologist or advanced doctoral candidate in psychology, and you can be confident that the clinician will have the training appropriate to meet with you. There are two other contexts in which you might work with a graduate clinical trainee. First, you might be asked if a trainee can sit in on your initial appointment. You are free to decline for any reason; your comfort is of the utmost importance. Second, if you and your initial clinician determine that counseling with a trainee at the center is appropriate, you may be matched up to work with a clinical trainee. Your initial clinician will take great care to ensure that you are assigned to an appropriate person to address your concerns.

Many students develop productive therapy relationships with clinical trainees, while other students are best served by off-campus providers. You and your initial clinician can discuss possible options and identify which will best meet your needs.

The Counseling Center is a great first place for students to start when they are experiencing difficulties. At the end of an initial appointment with a clinician, next steps will be discussed. For some students, engaging in short-term individual therapy with a psychologist or clinical trainee at the center is the best fit given their presenting concerns and situation. For others, meeting with a provider off campus is most appropriate. There are a variety of factors that go into making such a decision which can be discussed with your initial clinician. 

Even if you want to see a provider off campus, a Counseling Center clinician is still a great first step. Your initial clinician can help you connect to services that are maximally affordable, accessible, and appropriate for you. Visit our page about referrals and insurance to learn more.

The Counseling Center does not prescribe medications. However, there are psychiatric services available at the Student Health Center (SHC). For more information, contact the SHC at 202-885-3800 or visit their website. Additionally, Counseling Center clinicians can provide referral options for off-campus psychiatric services.

During the academic year, the Counseling Center is open Monday and Thursday from 9am-6pm, and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9am-5pm

During breaks and summer months, the center is open Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm. The center is always closed on Saturday and Sunday.

For emergencies that occur after hours, contact Public Safety (x3636), your Residential Life staff, or 911.

Urgent Care Drop-In services are offered Monday-Friday 2-4pm. During this time, students experiencing a psychological crisis, are seeking provider referrals, or have quick questions may meet with a clinician for 15-20 minutes for assessment and consultation. Students will be asked to complete paperwork that informs us of who you are and what you are seeking. Urgent Care Drop-in is NOT therapy. However, it is a time in which a clinician may discuss what therapy is and how it may support a student in meeting their needs.

Generally, you can schedule your first appointment (initial consultation) within a few days to a week of contacting the center. This may vary depending on the time of year and flexibility of your schedule. If you are experiencing a crisis or feel you cannot wait to be seen by a clinician, please attend Urgent Care Drop-In Hours (M-F, 2-4pm).