College is a time of transition

Feelings of excitement, trepidation, and loss for both the student and their family can often be an inescapable result of the transition to college. The faculty and staff at Willamette University know how important the relationship between a student and their family can be in maintaining a sense of balance and security. We find that students whose families remain actively aware and maintain open lines of communication are those that are more likely to succeed academically, make safer choices with regard to high risk behavior, and become more fully engaged in all that Willamette has to offer.

College is a developmentally exciting time. It is part of the student's search for maturity and self-identity. Students experience intellectual stimulation and growth, develop autonomy, and further investigate their social interests. During this process, your student will seek to actively clarify their core values and beliefs. They will often explore new peer groups, forge new identities, experiment, and gain competence in new areas. Occasionally, this means that they will challenge the values that you have instilled in them on their road toward independence.

For more information, please see our presentation on navigating family transitions.

Some tips on supporting your student

  • Build an adult relationship with your student with letters, e-mails, phone calls, and care packages. Let the student dictate the frequency of these contacts to build a sense of independence.
  • Despite their movement toward autonomy, it is important for your student to know that you are still there for them and are willing to talk at any time. It is normal for your student to actively seek your support one day and reject it the next.
  • Discuss financial issues with your student, specifically those expenses for which you will and will not be paying. Develop a plan for your student's spending.
  • Be realistic about academic performance. A straight-A student in high school may or may not be a straight-A student in college. Encourage them to do their best and make sure your student is aware of the resources available to them if they begin to struggle academically.
  • Try not to burden your student with family problems at home over which they have no control. This can lead to a sense of helplessness and guilt for your student.
  • Encourage them to pro-actively care for their mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

When might counseling be appropriate for your student?

Students seek counseling services to address a range of concerns including; adjustment to college, career exploration, loneliness, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, performance or academic decline, family concerns, alcohol and drug related issues, room-mate conflicts, management of pre-existing mental health concerns, and suicidal impulses or thoughts. If your student is struggling and is not responding to the support you have offered, you might suggest that they seek counseling services on campus.

Counseling Services at Willamette University provides a variety of services to enhance your student's academic success and emotional well-being. We offer confidential individual, couples, and group counseling to students experiencing a range of concerns. As well, we provide referrals to community based psychological and psychiatric services when a student's needs are beyond the scope of what we are able to provide here. This includes on-going medication management services for mental health concerns, neuro-psychological evaluations (ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, etc.), and treatment for acute eating disorders and/or alcohol and drug addiction. Counseling Services can be reached at (503)370-6471 during normal business hours.

What about confidentiality?

Confidentiality is essential to establishing a safe and supportive counseling relationship. All counselors in Counseling Services strictly adhere to the confidentiality guidelines mandated by law, the American Psychological Association, and our respective licensing boards. While it is understandable that parents and families wish to be involved in the mental health care of their student, the confidentiality standards mentioned above prevent us from sharing any information about your student without written consent. This means that we are not able to even confirm or deny that your student has been seen in our office. However, if you are at all worried about the health and safety of your student, please feel free to contact us to share any concerns you may have with a counselor.

Willamette University

Counseling Services

Baxter Hall
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.
503-370-6471 voice

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