Interior of the Counseling Center.
Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

The Counseling Center is primarily intended for assessment and short-term counseling, with referrals to private counselors in the Oberlin area if necessary. The center itself is funded through tuition. Services are free, although students are responsible for the cost of any external services. The number of sessions needed is discussed as part of the initial intake process.

If individual counseling is the service that is most appropriate for you, you will ordinarily continue working with the staff member you met with initially. This is an opportunity to be heard, to receive support and to clarify the challenges you are experiencing. While this is short-term focused psychotherapy, many problems presented can be addressed. Referrals are also available for ongoing support.

Our same-day crisis services are designed to assist students who are confronting life-threatening circumstances, current or recent traumatic crises, and/or serious emotional distress. During a same-day crisis assessment, a counselor will briefly meet with you to discuss your situation. If you are experiencing a crisis, a counselor will work with you to stabilize the situation. If your situation is not a crisis, we will work with you to schedule a counseling appointment as soon as possible.

Examples of crisis issues include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Thoughts about harming another person
  • Recent assault or abuse
  • Concern about your own safety or the safety of another
  • Strange experiences, such as hearing voices or seeing things that no one else hears or sees
  • Coping with serious illness, death, or dying
  • Witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event

The above are just examples. There may be other situations that you may experience as placing you in a crisis.

By seeking crisis services, you understand that a crisis is a situation in which not being seen immediately could lead to serious consequences or seriously aggravate a person’s health or well-being.  Seeking these services indicates that you believe that your situation is a crisis that cannot wait for a scheduled appointment.

Oberlin College has contracted with University Hospitals of Cleveland to provide psychiatric services for Oberlin students. Alex Wang, MD and Matthew Newton, DO are board certified psychiatrists with a strong interest in working with the college-age population and hold office hours in the Counseling Center part time during the academic year.

At Oberlin, the psychiatrist works in conjunction with staff psychologists in the Counseling Center and Student Health Services medical staff to provide a holistic approach to treatment. It is our goal to provide quality mental health care and services by assessing each student’s individual needs and determining the best way to meet those needs.

Students expressing a desire to meet with the psychiatrist will initially be scheduled to consult with a professional staff member for an assessment, regardless of past or current treatment. All students using the services of these psychiatrists will also be required to supply evidence of a psychotherapeutic relationship with a licensed mental health provider in the Oberlin/Cleveland area.

In some cases, this relationship will be with a psychologist in the center. In others, a referral will be made to a private practitioner in the Oberlin area for ongoing support and psychotherapy. Schedule an appointment with one of the center's staff psychologists to discuss your interest in meeting with the psychiatrist.

What to expect from a visit to the psychiatrist

A visit to the psychiatrist is often focused upon determining a diagnosis and considering the role of medication in treating the problem presented. An initial visit usually takes 40 to 45 minutes. If you have been referred, the psychiatrist will often have received preliminary information from your referral source, including visits with a psychologist at the Counseling Center. This may help the psychiatrist focus more efficiently on a diagnosis.

Typically, follow-up visits with the psychiatrist are brief (10-15 minutes), and focused on an evaluation of the effectiveness of medications prescribed to treat your condition.

For many issues and problems, group therapy is the treatment of choice. In groups, students have the advantage of speaking with others who have similar concerns and experiences; significantly lessening the feelings of isolation often accompanying the problem. Sharing personal experiences with a small group of peers can be difficult at first—it can also bring with it a profound sense of relief.

Many times people feel shame or guilt about their experiences. These feelings eventually diminish as they find that they are still liked and accepted after they have talked through what have been secrets for a long time. Groups can also be a place to give and receive feedback from peers, as well as a place to try out new ways of being with others in a safe, supportive environment. The group can be thought of as a kind of microcosm of the outside world, where members both recreate and create new ways of being in the world. Group members make a commitment to keep everything in the group confidential. This deepens feelings of safety in the group, which are also given by group structure (meeting at the same time in the same place, starting and ending on time, seeing the same people every week) and the presence of the group coleaders.

Therapy and support groups are not structured like classes or workshops. Group members are free to talk about any concerns in an atmosphere that is as free, supportive, empathic, and nonjudgmental as possible. It is always important to remember that the benefits of group therapy, like any form of therapy, reflect an individual’s investment in it.

While group members are not pressured to participate beyond their comfort levels, the group will encourage its members to be as active as they feel ready to be. Readiness is key; sometimes it’s a good idea for students to do a piece of individual counseling work before joining a group.

Workshops are skills-focused groups that create a space for students to develop coping resources, build a more effective relationship with emotions, foster healthy relationship skills, and receive validation and support in processing past and current experiences.

Browse more information about the types of groups the center offers as well as a description of specific groups via our Groups  site.

Sometimes couples experience short-term or ongoing problems that are challenging to overcome on their own. While individual therapy can be a good way to address individual concerns and underlying issues, couples counseling looks at what's going on in "the system."

It is often more effective for the couple to meet with a therapist together, so that the therapist can get a sense of what the dynamics are between the partners, to hear something about the background and concerns of each person, and to better understand what the goals are for each person and the couple as a unit.

The therapist can often help partners communicate with each other, and help clarify or expand upon what may have been difficult to convey (which might be adding to the couple's difficulties). Many couples experience considerable relief at getting the support and feedback counseling can provide.

Couples counseling can be thought of, too, as a place to do some assessment of the system, a place to begin to see more clearly what is the cause of distressing symptoms and problems.

The Counseling Center can provide educational programs to support student development and enhance skills in living. We offer workshops, lectures, and discussion groups on a variety of topics, some of which include:

  • stress management
  • assertiveness training
  • eating disorders
  • exploring cultural or racial identity
  • conflict resolution
  • gender identity
  • sexual orientation
  • test anxiety
  • procrastination 
  • perfectionism

 To suggest an educational program, call us at (440) 775-8470.

While maintaining confidentiality, the Counseling Center staff is available to consult with faculty, professional staff, and administrators about issues with direct or indirect impact on student development and well-being.
Referral Guide

Students can seek consultation if they are concerned about their own well-being or the well-being of another student, such as a roommate or a friend.

We provide counseling and support for students concerned about alcohol and drug use. This is a good place to start when looking for direction or help. Students in need of a court-ordered assessment or treatment for dependency will be referred to alcohol and drug services certified by the state, located in Elyria, or to an agency near a student’s hometown.

The Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services (LCADA) in Elyria provide a full range of rehabilitation services for alcohol and drug abuse and dependence. Call 440-989-4900. LCADA also offers a 24-hour crisis and information line, (440) 277-8190.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Al-Anon meetings are held in the local community. View the AA meeting schedule or call 440-246-1800.

  • Details about Al-Anon call 440-277-6969.
  • Details about NA call 800-407-7195 or 800-587-4222.

The Oberlin College Counseling Center Statement on Diversity and Inclusion 

The values of diversity, inclusion, and equity are at the core of our profession and the services we provide at the Counseling Center. As a center we respect, support, and embrace differences in identity. The Counseling Center is dedicated to making our care accessible to all students and our staff is committed to creating a safe, inclusive, and affirming environment that embraces the richness brought by the intersections of gender identity and expression, race, ethnicity, culture, sexual and or affectional orientation, age, physical and mental abilities, religious and spiritual orientation, socioeconomic status, immigration status, as well as a host of other personal and social characteristics that comprise individual identity.

These values structure our services and our commitment to fostering a healthy campus community that supports individual well-being and academic success.