Frequently Asked Questions
It is normal to have questions, concerns, and fears about how to handle the adjustment period and other aspects of being an international students.
Here we provide answers to some of the most common questions we encounter from international students regarding the Counseling Center and the kind of support we offer. Still have questions? Remember that you can schedule a confidential appointment with a Counseling Center clinician for more support.
Mental health services like therapy don't exist in my home culture. What is counseling about?
Who would I speak to if I went to the Counseling Center?
Most students come to the Counseling Center by first scheduling an intake appointment, which can be with any of our counselors. For students whose first contact is through a Walk-In appointment, they will meet with a senior staff clinician or doctoral intern clinician. If you decide to pursue ongoing therapy at the Counseling Center, you will be matched with a therapist who has relevant experience and is qualified to help you. Regardless of who you meet with, this meeting will be collaborative and confidential.
What is the difference between a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a social worker, a doctoral intern, an extern, and a practicum therapist?
At the CUA Counseling Center, we have many different kinds of clinicians.
- Senior Staff Psychologists and Social Workers: Our senior staff is composed of licensed psychologists and licensed social workers, professionals who have earned a doctorate in Clinical or Counseling Psychology or a Master's degree or doctorate in Social Work. They are licensed by the District of Columbia, provide therapy services, and supervise graduate-level trainees.
- Staff Psychiatrist : A psychiatrist is someone with a medical degree who has had special training in mental health and prescribing medication for mental health issues. Our staff psychiatrist is licensed by the District of Columbia and meets briefly with students to discuss medication.
- Doctoral Psychology Interns : Doctoral interns are graduate students who are in the final phase of completing their doctorate in Clinical or Counseling Psychology. Similar to a medical resident, interns at the CUA Counseling Center have already had several years of experience as a therapist, went through a vigorous application process, and were selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants from around the country. They are not yet licensed psychologists, and they provide therapy services under the license of the senior staff psychologist who supervises their clinical work. They are also involved in supervising other graduate-level trainees.
- Psychology and Social Work Externs : Externs are advanced graduate students who are earning their Master's in Social Work or doctorate in Clinical or Counseling Psychology. They are selected from a competitive pool of applicants from graduate programs at local universities, though they sometimes come from programs in other parts of the country. Externs at the CUA Counseling Center have had some prior experience as therapists or in clinical settings, and they provide therapy services under the license of the senior staff member who supervises their clinical work.
- Practicum Therapis t: Practicum therapists are doctoral students in CUA's Clinical Psychology PhD program. They provide therapy services under the license of the psychologist from the Psychology Department who supervises their clinical work.
What happens in therapy?
Individual therapy consists of 50-minute weekly sessions where students can talk about stress, relationships, adjustment, or any other topic that is affecting their well-being. Some students like learning concrete skills and strategies, whereas other students prefer to process their experiences and discuss important themes. Your individual therapist will work with you to find the approach that best meets your needs and goals.
Group therapy consists of 80-minute weekly sessions where students come together around similar themes and share their experiences. These group sessions are led by one or two clinicians, and students are offered guidance as their improve relationship skills, gain other perspectives on their issues, and connect with others who have similar concerns.
What kinds of things do other international students talk about in therapy?
Therapy can be about whatever the individual student wants it to be about. However, we have noticed some similar themes that often bring international students to use our services. For example, other students have found it helpful to talk about general stress, how to adjust to U.S./CUA culture, how to improve relationships, or how to overcome loneliness or self-consciousness.
Will things I say in therapy affect my visa status or otherwise be shared with other people?
No. Any information that is shared in therapy remains confidential and will not be shared with anyone outside of the Counseling Center unless we have your permission to do so.
I'm having problems with my visa status that are stressing me out. What should I do?
You have a few options. First, we recommend consulting with International Student and Scholar Services, as they have the resources and knowledge to help you navigate visa issues. If you think you would also like support for managing your stress, such as having a place to talk through your worries or learning techniques to manage your stress, the Counseling Center or Campus Ministry can be a helpful resource.
There is civil unrest/political violence/natural disaster occurring in my home country. How should I cope with this?
These kinds of situations can be especially distressing. We recommend relying on a number of coping strategies to help deal with the immense stress. For example, some students find it helpful to problem solve by focusing on matters that are still within their control (e.g. calling family members, organizing a fundraising or donation drive to support survivors, talking to friends about what is happening). It may also be helpful to speak with a religious leader, trusted professor or advisor, or a Counseling Center staff member about what you are experiencing. Remember that reactions such as difficulty concentrating, disruptions to sleep and appetite, and feeling agitated, angry, or sad are completely normal responses to have.