Frequently Asked Questions and Dispelling MythsCounseling Center

Our goal is to provide you with quality, professional services. Please feel free to contact the Counseling Center to make an appointment or to discuss any questions that you may have. Call us at (507) 933-7027 or email us at


What is counseling?

Counseling is a process by which people, who are experiencing difficulties in their lives, enter into a relationship with a trained professional to gain greater insight into their situation, and to develop more effective ways of responding to life experiences. You can use counseling to learn how to cope with a particular symptom or problematic situation – or to focus on gaining insight into your more sustained ways of being in the world. Counseling requires active involvement from both the person seeking counseling, and the counselor.

What can I expect from my first appointment?

After making an appointment at the Counseling Center, you will be directed to complete some information online prior to your first session. During the first appointment you will have a chance to share the concerns you wish to bring to counseling with a counselor. Your counselor will also likely ask additional questions to gather further information about your background and life experiences to assess your needs.

Toward the end of the initial meeting, you and your counselor will make a decision about what the best course of action will be. At times, your concerns may be resolved at the end of this meeting. If you do need further help, the counselor will make a referral to one of the services offered by the Counseling Center, to another campus office, or to an off-campus agency, depending on your unique circumstances and needs.

How often will I meet with a counselor?

The amount of time spent in counseling varies from person to person and according to the nature of issues presented. Some people are seen for a single session, while others continue for several weeks or months. Most students meet with a counselor for 5-8 sessions. While we aim to serve the needs of all Gustavus students, there are occasions where a counselor may recommend a student seek a counselor off-campus to receive longer-term services. In these situations the Counseling Center, in collaboration with the Dean of Students office and/or Health Services, will work to help the student find accommodations to access off-campus care (i.e., referral options, transportation for off-campus resources, navigating health insurance coverage, etc.).

What about privacy and confidentiality?

Confidentiality is an integral part of the counseling process. It is important for you to know that any information you provide to a counselor is classified as “confidential” under the rules of your counselor's licensing board, professional codes of ethics, and the laws of the State of Minnesota. EXCEPTION: If you are 17 years of age or younger, your parents MAY have access to counseling information, or MAY be required to give their permission for you to seek counseling. There are a few other unique circumstances where your counselor may have to divulge information. These situations will be discussed with you in your first visit.

It is important for you to know that what is discussed in session with your counselor is NOT part of your academic record. Faculty and staff outside of the Counseling Center do not have access to your counseling records.

Will I be referred to an off-campus provider?

During an initial intake interview, you and your counselor may make some decisions about the length and focus of counseling. Sometimes finding the most appropriate help for you may mean that you need resources other than those provided by the Counseling Center staff. If so, we will offer assistance in referring you to other appropriate services and counseling resources.

What is the cost of counseling?

There is no additional cost to you for therapy sessions at Gustavus. We do charge a $25 fee for "no show" and late cancellation (i.e., cancellations occuring less than 24 hours before the scheduled appointment time) of appointments. This fee helps ensure that if sessions cannot be attended, the time slot opens up in a timely manner for another student to use. This also helps us better manage the wait time for students to get in for their next appointment. If this fee is applied, students will be notified about this fee by email, and will have 5 business days to come and pay their fee at the Counseling Center or it will be charged to their student account (if/when fees are applied to student accounts, they are not labeled as being connected to the Counseling Center in order to maintain student privacy).

How long will it take me to get an appointment with a counselor?

We are committed to seeing students within a reasonable amount of time. First-time appointments are usually seen the week the appointment has been scheduled. However, in times of high demand for services, and when case loads for therapists are at capacity, students may not be able to get an appointment for ongoing counseling in a timely fashion. Should this occur, the Counseling Center has a waiting list students can be placed on to be notified if a sooner date becomes available. The Counseling Center also sets aside time each day for emergency or triaged appointments. If you are in an emergency and need to be seen immediately, you can call our front desk at (507) 933-7027, Campus Safety at (507) 933-8888, or 911.

While waiting for your appointment, we also highly encourage students to access live consultation services with one of our staff members through our Let's Talk program. Let's Talk is held each day classes are in session between 1:30 and 2:30. This services is being held virtually for the time being. Click the Let's Talk link for information on how to access this service.

How do I make an appointment?

Stop in our office at Johnson Student Union, Room 204, call us at (507) 933-7027, or email us at to schedule an appointment. After scheduling, you will be asked to fill out some background information online to help your counselor prepare for your visit. Be sure to complete these forms at least four hours prior to your first appointment.

What if I want to get advice on how to help a friend?

We offer consultation sessions if you would like to talk through your concerns. We will assess the situation and offer suggestions on how to move forward. We recommend using Let's Talk for consultation purposes. We also have a page with some advice on this topic. Also, take a look at the "Helpful Handouts" section of our website, you can find this in the sidebar menu under "Resources".

What if I am still unsure about counseling?

Counseling is a "no strings-attached" service. You are in control of whether you want to continue with appointments or not. If you unsure about counseling, we welcome you to schedule a session and come in with a 'curious' attitude towards counseling. Your counselor will not push you to discuss things you do not wish to discuss in your appointments. Feel free to share your concerns or hesitations about your involvement in counseling with your counselor. This space is judgment-free and we are happy to meet you where you are at with how involved you wish to be in the process. We also see Let's Talk as a helpful space for you to briefly engage with us if you are curious about counseling, but unsure if you want to schedule a full session. Also, know that it is completely normal for someone to be nervous about attending counseling for the first time. We are prepared to work with you through the initial anxiety of entering this unfamiliar territory.

Counseling Myths Dispelled

Deciding to see a counselor is often a difficult decision, which takes place over time. In most cases, people don't feel comfortable when they see a counselor for the first time. Here are a few of the reasons that prevent or delay people from taking the steps to give counseling a try...

1. "Receiving counseling is a sign of weakness."
Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes courage to address problem areas and examine painful feelings. Entering counseling is taking the first step in resolving difficulties.
2. "People who go to counseling are crazy. I’m not crazy!"

College students are high-functioning people. So, at a college counseling center all of the work is with high-functioning people. Some people who receive counseling feel “sick” in the sense of being unhappy, but you don't need to be feeling sick or non-functioning to go into counseling, you just need to be feeling stuck. Counseling helps when you have tried to address a situation on your own but your strategies don't seem to help. Asking for help is a sign of maturity, self-awareness and possession of a sense of inner strength.

3. "Gustavus is too small—everyone will know what I talk about."

Counseling at GAC is strictly CONFIDENTIAL. Therapists at GAC must abide by strict ethical standards. It would not be legal for a counselor at GAC to inform anyone about what you said—or even that you were seen for counseling at all. There are some exceptional situations when a therapist at GAC might have to share some information you revealed in a counseling session. Here is a description of those rare cases:

Your counselor has a legal responsibility to disclose information without your consent if that is necessary to protect you or others from serious harm. These include cases where a client has communicated a serious threat of physical violence toward him/herself or someone else, or when a counselor has reasonable cause to believe that the client is so unable to care for themself that the situation is life threatening. Additionally, counselors are obligated to report any cases of child abuse or elder abuse.

4. "I wouldn’t even know what to talk about."
You don’t need to know what to talk about before you come. In counseling, people examine whether there are ways they think, feel and/or behave that they can improve. Your counselor will help you identify these areas and how discussing them could be helpful. In the process of exploring, students often discuss issues such as academic performance, relationships, adjusting to life challenges/changes, managing stress, or choosing a major.

5. "I can't afford to pay for counseling."
Counseling at Gustavus is free. There is no additional fee for any counseling service. 

6. "I can always talk to a friend. I don't understand how talking to a stranger can be helpful."
Friends can provide wonderful support and empathy, and that’s often enough to help us through difficult times. But a counseling relationship is different in a very important way. In a friendship the needs of both people must be attended to. Friendships involve a mutual exchange of listening and sharing. In counseling, the focus is solely on you and during this dialogue about you, your counselor is trained to use therapeutic techniques to help you.

7. "I don't believe just talking can do any good."
Talking can actually do a lot of good. Discussing something with someone who cares about you and who is not judgmental helps relieve the emotional pressure caused by keeping our thoughts and feelings to ourselves. But counseling involves much more than just talking. Counseling provides a way for us to understand who we are and how we relate to the world around us. In counseling we focus our attention on aspects of our experience that we may have been previously unaware of. This provides new ways of looking at our problems and this often gives us new ways to handle these problems.

8. "I'm betraying my family."
Counselors are sensitive and respectful of concerns about family traditions and privacy. If conflicts about loyalty to family and culture are of concern, these issues can be discussed in the first session before more personal matters are addressed.

9. "If I talk about my problems, I'll just make them worse, or completely fall apart.”
On the contrary, examining previously suppressed concerns and worries helps dissipate the pain and intensity and helps us understand our problems better. Counseling provides a forum for exploring choices, which produces better decision making. We also believe that having a safe, supportive space to express uncomfortable emotions is a necessary component of the healing process.

10. “ I may want to go to graduate school or be in the military or the CIA, and having been in counseling could get in the way of my being accepted.”
No employer or graduate school to which you apply can force Gustavus to share your counseling records. Records are confidential. Neither the fact that you seek counseling nor any information about the counseling sessions will appear in your student academic record. If any individual or office ever wants to know anything about your counseling, you would have to sign a release of information form before this information is released by Gustavus, expect in the rare exceptional cases (i.e., regarding safety concerns) noted above.