For many of today’s teens and college students, visiting a counseling center is one of the few ways to access mental health services. But students are not the only group eligible for counseling services. Some centers serve larger communities comprised mostly of people who cannot afford the services of a senior counselor or therapist.

In broad lines, counseling is a form of therapeutic intervention that addresses healthy individuals who are going through a personal, social, or professional crisis. In other words, the main purposes of psychological counseling are to help individuals overcome temporary setbacks and optimize various aspects of their emotional experiences and behaviors.

Unlike psychotherapy, counseling requires a lower number of sessions but uses similar methods and techniques to promote physical and psychological well-being. The main difference between counseling and therapy is that counseling aims to prevent severe mental disorders by helping psychologically healthy individuals manage life’s unexpected hassles.

Considering that counseling centers typically work with mentally healthy individuals, these institutions represent the ideal ‘training ground’ for counselors and therapists who – although are at the beginning of their career – have the necessary skills to offer emotional support. Also, each counseling center has one or more senior practitioners who supervise the work of the entire staff.

In short, counseling centers create a bridge between people who are in need of emotional support but can’t afford and aspiring psychotherapists to start putting their training into practice.

University Counseling Centers

Most counseling centers are located on university campuses. The reason for that is the growing number of college and university students who are facing emotional crises [1] and are at risk of developing mental health problems.

In an attempt to come up with a solution, many researchers, university officials, and mental health professionals have begun to invest intellectual and financial resources into university counseling centers for students who, for various reasons, don’t have other access to mental health services.

Who is Eligible for Services?

Most of the individuals who access the services provided by counseling centers are college and university students who are struggling with emotional or behavioral problems and wish to achieve personal and professional growth.

But students are not the only ones eligible for counseling services. In fact, some centers offer affordable mental health services to vulnerable or underprivileged groups.

Although university campuses are not the only places where mental health services are in high demand, it would be impossible for campus-based counseling centers to offer their services to all the existing vulnerable groups, as that would require a vast amount of resources.

Who Works at Counseling Centers?

The staff of counseling centers is usually comprised of both senior counselors and students who are training to become counselors.

Although students make up most of the staff, many centers afford to hire at least one senior practitioner who can oversee cases and impose ethical standards that guarantee better services.

Unfortunately, there’s still a lot to be done in order to cover the entire demand for mental health services.

Out of all the counseling centers that exist across U.S. campuses, only half are accredited by the International Association of Counseling Services. Furthermore, out of all the certified centers, only 40% offer part-time in-house psychiatric services. [2]

That means only a quarter of all counseling centers that exist in the U.S. can provide services to people with severe mental health disorders. The lack of fully-licensed counselor and therapists makes it difficult for centers to provide support for students who are struggling with diagnosable conditions.

What Services are Available Through Counseling Centers?

Counseling centers offer a wide range of services, from individual and group therapy to crisis response and prevention-oriented interventions.

Group Therapy

Given the large number of students who struggle with emotional issues, group therapy is an ideal approach for counseling centers who often lack the necessary staff to cover the increasing demand for mental health services.

By organizing group therapy sessions, counselors can provide emotional aid for several individuals at the same time, while also promoting the idea of mutual support. In other words, students learn to help and offer each other support during tough times.

Depending on the emotional or behavioral problems students in a given campus usually face, counseling centers can organize group therapy sessions on specific issues. For example, some centers offer group sessions for addiction and substance abuse, while others focus on problems related to bullying and discrimination.

Short-Term Individual Therapy

One of the main services you can benefit from – if you ever decide to visit a counseling center – is individual therapy. Discussing your issues with a trained counselor can help you identify possible solutions and achieve well-being.

But since there are many in who request emotional aid – and most centers focus exclusively on counseling services – you won’t be getting more than a couple of sessions.

If the problem you’re dealing with turns out to be a form of mental illness, there’s a good chance you might be instructed to see a therapist, for a more in-depth intervention.

Crisis Response

There are times when we simply no longer feel capable of dealing with life’s adversities; times when we feel completely stuck and hopeless. For someone who’s dealing with a severe emotional breakdown, getting help as soon as possible could mean the difference between life and death.

Fortunately, most counseling centers have a crisis response team who’s available 24/7.

If a student has been through a traumatic event or is overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts, a trained volunteer is always available to respond immediately and help defuse the crisis.


When it comes to promoting mental health, one crucial aspect that counselors always take into account is prevention. By developing useful coping mechanisms, social skills, and healthy habits, students can handle life’s hardships easier and reduce the risk of developing severe forms of mental illness.

In the end, one of the primary goals of counseling centers is to give students a chance to better themselves by investing in their personal and professional growth. [3] Once they learn the importance of healthy habits, they can take matters into their own hands and invest in their overall health and well-being.

Preserving mental health is mostly about being mindful of your day-to-day habits and getting actively involved in cultivating a healthier lifestyle.

What Else Do Counseling Centers Do?

Aside from mental health services for students who need emotional support, counseling centers also provide training and research opportunities for aspiring therapists and psychoeducation sessions that cover an extensive array of health-related practices.


One of the main goals of counseling centers is to put aspiring counselors in touch with people who need emotional support. For counselors who are still in training, having the opportunity to exercise their skills is extremely important. [3]

In a way, we could argue that this system creates a win-win situation where counselors under training get a chance to practice their skills, while students who, for various reasons, don’t have access to mental health services, can gain some form of help.

Although most of the counselors working in these centers are still under training, they are required to follow a strict ethical code, and their activity is supervised by a licensed mental health professional.


The advancement of any field relies heavily on the works of researchers who are actively pushing the boundaries of human understanding. Thanks to their constant endeavors, mental health professionals now possess a wide array of assessment and intervention tools.

Counseling centers are excellent places for researchers in the field of psychology or sociology to find potential subjects for various studies on mental health and well-being.

The results of their scientific endeavors can lead to the development of better tools and practices that counselors and therapists can use to promote mental health and assist clients in dealing with their issues.

Wellness Education

Wellness education refers to an active process through which we choose to become aware of our habits and make an effort towards a healthier life. By doing so, we can achieve an optimal state of well-being that is geared towards maximizing our potential.

Wellness means more than just overcoming physical or mental illness. It is a permanent and dynamic process that prompts us to become self-aware and assume responsibility for our overall health. It implies making decisions that contribute to our well-being and lead to significant changes on a physiological, intellectual, emotional, social, and professional level.

By providing wellness education, counseling centers help students and vulnerable groups keep their physical and mental health in tip-top shape.

Fitness/Dietary Education

Promoting mental health is as much about fitness and dietary habits as it is about emotional well-being and behavior change.

As experts from various fields suggest, the complex relationship between body and mind holds the key to health, well-being, and personal growth.

By helping students become more physically active and implement healthy dietary habits, counseling centers once again succeed in cultivating a prevention-centered approach to physical and mental health.

Could a Counseling Center Be Helpful for Me?

As mentioned before, most counseling centers are equipped to provide emotional aid for people who are going through a rough patch but don’t necessarily struggle with a diagnosable condition.

If you’re only looking to vent your emotions, determine the state of your overall mental health, or achieve personal growth, then visiting a counseling center might be a viable solution.

However, the only definitive way to find out if a counseling center can be the answer to your problems is to pick up the phone, call a staff member, and have a quick chat about the issues you’re facing.

Based on the severity of your problem, the staff can then determine whether you’re eligible for their counseling services or not.

Challenges in Receiving Counseling Center Care

Aside from the eligibility criteria that usually prioritizes students who struggle with non-clinical problems, there are a couple of other obstacles that could prevent you from accessing the services of a counseling center.

One major obstacle is overbooking. Many universities have found themselves hard-pressed to keep pace with the rapidly rising demand for behavioral healthcare services among students and in the surrounding communities, often resulting in shortages of resources for maintaining those services. Since many counseling centers are understaffed and underbudgeted, you may find yourself placed onto long waiting lists at many centers.

The other obstacle many encounter is in terms of the depth of services. As mentioned previously, counseling centers are mostly geared towards attending to less acute, phase-of-life and other kinds of issues that can be resolved within a shorter period of time. For longer term or more intensive treatment, clients may be referred to outside agencies in the surrounding community.

Find a Therapist Now

Sometimes, the problem with accessing mental health services is not the lack of financial resources, but the absence of a nearby counseling center or therapy office where you can discuss your issues with a trained professional.

To simplify the process of accessing counseling services, many healthcare professionals have begun to take advantage of something we all share – the Internet.

Nowadays, online therapy has gained massive popularity among counselors and therapists who are looking to make themselves more accessible to potential clients.

One platform that can give you quick access to counseling services, regardless of your location, is ThriveTalk. By providing affordable chat and video therapy, with licensed counselors, this platform gives you the chance to benefit from professional help – anytime, anywhere.

Although counseling centers might not be able to provide a definitive solution to all the mental health challenges today’s students often face, the absence of these relatively accessible services would make it difficult for members of vulnerable groups to receive emotional support.


  1. Kwai, “The Most Popular Office on Campus,” The Atlantic, 19 10 2016. [Online]. Available:
  2. Caroline, “More and more students need mental health services. But colleges struggle to keep up,” Gannett, 4 5 2017. [Online]. Available:
  3. Winterrowd, S. J. Priniski, J. Achter and J. J. Abhold, “Correlates of Satisfaction, Intrapersonal Learning, and Academic Outcomes at Counseling Centers in a University System,” College Student Journal, vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 288-301, 2016.
  4. P. Bingham, “The role of university and college counseling centers in advancing the professionalization of psychology.,” American Psychologist, vol. 70, no. 8, pp. 792-796, 2015.
author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings

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