For Parents & Loved Ones

College can be a positive and exciting time for students, however, with many new experiences and a host of responsibilities it can become overwhelming.  It is normal for students to experience anxiety as they make adjustments to college life and the many changes they are experiencing. Parents and loved ones may look to the University Counseling Center staff to assist their student with difficulties. 

Our goal is to provide you with information and support that might assist you in helping your GVSU student who may need mental health services or support.


When is Counseling Appropriate for my student?

Students seek counseling for many reasons but concerns could include: 

  • Loneliness and adjustment issues
  • Concerns about career choice and/or academic performance
  • Family stress such as a family loss, divorce, or alcoholism
  • Emotional difficulties such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse concerns, self-esteem, or suicidal feelings
  • Interpersonal conflict or isolation


Connecting with the UCC:

Consultation Assistance:

  • Our counselors are available to you for consultation by calling our office at (616) 331-3266 and asking to speak with a counselor about your student. We will offer resources and suggestions to help a student obtain mental health support or treatment.  This may include exploring whether the University Counseling Center or other Grand Rapids community services are the best fit to meet a student’s needs.

How does a student make an appointment at UCC?: 

  • Students are directed to personally schedule all appointments.
  • Students schedule the first-time screening appointment by contacting the University Counseling Center at (616) 331-3266. First-time screening appointments are designed to be quick access and are typically scheduled within 48-hours. Learn more about our first-time appointments
  • The UCC does not call students to initiate care; Students must voluntarily request services. In our experience, students are uncomfortable and anxious receiving an unsolicited call from an unknown counselor.
  • If the student is unable or unwilling to contact the UCC and you remain concerned, complete a CARE Report for non-emergency support. The GVSU CARE team will reach out to the student, most often by email, and invite the student to talk about different types of supports, including UCC services.
  • If you feel this is an emergency, please call the GVSU Police Department at (616) 331-3255 or 911 for assistance.

Assisting your student with finding a community provider:

  • Sometimes it is more beneficial for a student to seek a provider outside of the UCC. The UCC will assist with community referral options when the student requests to be seen frequently (e.g., weekly) or when a student’s mental health treatment needs are outside of the Center’s short-term scope of practice
  • We have compiled a list of community providers in the West Michigan area who are interested in working with GVSU students.  We will also provide information on how to find providers in areas beyond West Michigan as needed.

Self-Help Resources for your student: We have compiled a list of common concerns that might come up during your student's time at GVSU. See our self-help directory so that you may refer your student to it. 

Online Mental Health Screening for your student: The University Counseling Center offers access to Online Screening ToolsPlease Note: These tests are meant to be indicators only and do not replace a full assessment by a qualified clinician. 

Mental Health Outreach and Events: Your student may attend a number of mental health-focused outreach events, including national mental health screening days. Urge your student to get involved by visiting our events calendar

Frequently Asked Questions by Parents and Loved Ones

Our services to current students include short-term individual and group counseling as well as seminars, emergency consultation, alcohol/substance counseling, crisis response, post-hospitalization services and mental health/medical withdrawal from classes. 

The University Counseling Center is a short-term counseling center. Individual session limits are required to avoid long wait times for students and will be discussed between counselor and student. Group counseling is unlimited and offers a long-term treatment option.  We serve current students only  and there is no cost for our counseling services.

If you feel your student needs more than short-term counseling services, our staff will help refer them to a mental health provider in the surrounding area. You may also use our online resource guide to locate a community provider who may better suit your student's needs. 

If students are in crisis during UCC business hours, they should visit the Counseling Center for an urgent care appointment. If students are in crisis after hours, they can contact their Resident Assistant, Living Center Directors, Grand Valley Police Department (616) 331-3255, or call 911

National Suicide Prevention Line & Crisis Chat : 1-800-273-8255

  • The Lifeline Crisis Chat is an online support service. You may also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Crisis Text Line: Text 741741

  • The Crisis Text Line provides trained volunteers to offer support 24-7. 

All of our full-time staff members are licensed. We employ doctoral interns and social work interns that are supervised by fully-licensed clinicians. Click here if you would like to learn more about our staff.

The Counseling Center staff often receives calls from parents who are concerned about their student and ask how they can convince them to get help. The direct approach of saying something like “I’m worried that you seem pretty down after _______. Would you consider seeking help from the University Counseling Center?” can work well. Sometimes the student may not even know that help is available or only needs a bit of encouragement from a parent. Hearing from a parent that it’s normal both to have problems and to seek help in overcoming challenges can also be helpful.

Services at our center are completely voluntary. Staff cannot require students to attend involuntary counseling sessions. If you are concerned for your student's safety there are options listed under our Emergency Services webpage.

Due to legal and ethical requirements our staff cannot give out any client information without a signed release of information form. Counselors will listen to your concerns and answer questions about the Center's general procedures. We ask that parents and loved ones speak with your student to obtain a release of information before requesting info from our staff. Click here to view our confidentiality policy.

First-year students cannot schedule appointments before classes start, but may contact our office to set up a brief consultation with a counselor to receive general information about our services. 


Talking to your College Student

Take some time to start a conversation about mental health. This can be tough for families as often in our society, mental health isn’t discussed openly like physical health. Feelings of depression or anxiety are often hidden because people are confused, embarrassed, or ashamed. You can help protect your student and their friends by talking to them.

  • Ask open-ended questions. Let your student steer the conversation to what they want to talk about. 
  • Don’t rush to solve their problems. Instead, ask what they think would help a situation.
  • Be available and make sure your student knows it. “I'm around if you want to talk later” may help.
  • Try talking when doing an activity together, such as on a walk. The relaxed atmosphere makes it easier for some to open up.

How to help your college student save a life

How would you respond if your student told you their friend might be thinking about suicide?

Share ACT (Acknowledge, Care, Tell) with your student so they are prepared to get help for themselves or a friend. 

  • Acknowledge any concerns they may have about their own emotions or a friend’s reactions.
  • Care: Show them how much you care by listening and taking their concerns seriously.
  • Tell: Make yourself available as a safe person they can tell about big problems.