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If you have questions regarding the Counseling and Mental Health Services offered to Harvard students, some of these answers might help point you in the right direction. For more information, visit the Counseling and Mental Health Services website.

Do HLS students have access to therapists?

Yes, Harvard University has one of the largest student mental health departments in the country – the CAMHS (Counseling and Mental Health Services) therapists include: clinical social workers, licensed mental health counselors, psychiatric (prescribing) nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Can you talk about access to therapy on campus?

CAMHS has a comprehensive website describing the process to access services which is frequently updated as improvements are made and new services are offered. The website is easily accessed here: https://camhs.huhs.harvard.edu/. If you have difficulty accessing the website for any reason, you can call the front desk at CAMHS at 617-495-2042 for answers to your questions.

Are psychiatrists available on campus?

Yes, psychiatrists’ offices are in the same location as the other clinical providers – the fourth floor of the Smith Campus Center. We also have psychiatrists at the Medical School clinic in Longwood.

How are the counseling services? Are they actually helpful?

Students are invited by HUHS to complete surveys which ask questions about the process of accessing therapy as well as the counseling services themselves. From our review of the surveys and from what students say directly, counseling helps students immensely at key times in their lives.

Does the Harvard student insurance cover counseling/ therapy in situations where there is not a formal diagnosis of depression, anxiety, etc.? Are there requirements behind when the insurance will cover the sessions?

Students can access counseling in CAMHS regardless of whether there is a formal diagnosis of a mental health disorder. For example, it is not uncommon for students to have short-term issues (involving a roommate, an unexpected loss, routine adjustment to a new setting) and while these circumstances can benefit from counseling, there is no need for this to be a mental health condition in order to justify receiving counseling support.

If a student is seen by a counselor in the community, the same is true for insurance. While a diagnosis may need to be submitted with the claim, therapists often code these visits as situational stress or ‘adjustment’ issues so that they are covered. There does not need to be a formal diagnosis.

Practical question: how do I go about scheduling a first counseling session here?

You can register for an initial 30 minute consultation (by phone or in person) in your patient portal, found at: https://huhs.harvard.edu/patient-portal. If you have difficulty accessing the website for any reason, you can call the CAMHS front desk at 617-495-2042 to request assistance with registering for the initial consultation. You and the clinician with whom you talk or meet will, together, decide on next steps, including identifying a therapist and counseling plan that best fits your needs.

If there are no initial consultations available when you visit the patient portal, you can call the office at 617-495-2042 and ask the front desk support staff to help in finding a time. There may be a cancellation that day that fits your schedule and we also have some ‘Same day’ appointments each day that are first-come-first serve. If your need is urgent, the front desk staff will find a time for you to meet with a clinician that day. Let’s Talk options are available in 3 locations on campus and that information is on our website. These are drop-in chats with clinicians in the community and there is no note recorded in your health record.

Are there any HLS or general support groups that meet regularly?

Yes, a complete listing of groups found at HLS and at Smith Center and the Medical School satellite clinic can be found on CAMHS’s website at: https://camhs.huhs.harvard.edu/workshops-and-groups. In addition, it can be helpful to know that OSAPR has run a support group at HLS for sexual assault survivors – check with OSAPR regarding current offerings. Also the Chaplains office has run groups as well (e.g. grief and other topics).

Is it better to find an off campus therapist?

There are different advantages to both – many students like the convenience of working with a therapist on campus, not to mention the excellent training and clinical skills provided. However, CAMHS has a short-term therapy model – we traditionally work with students for short term therapy (typically not longer than a semester, as a ballpark) and we tend to meet once every 2-3 weeks, not weekly. If you would like to work with a therapist for longer than short term work and if you’d like to meet with a therapist more frequently than once every 2-3 weeks, working with an “off-campus” therapist may be a good option. An outside therapist will likely be available to you for the duration of your time at HLS.

How do you find your therapist through Harvard?

CAMHS has a referral coordinator who can help you find an outside therapist and you don’t need to have an initial consultation to do this. She can be reached at our office number: 617-495-2042. It does take some time to find the appropriate therapist who has time in their schedule but we help to streamline this for students. Coming in January, CAMHS is partnering with Thriving Campus, a platform that will help our referral coordinator in her work and students will be able to access this through our website on their own, too.

What is the process for finding a therapist if you are not covered by the Harvard insurance?

See previous answer.

I’m not on Harvard insurance and wonder if I can still use counseling services through the Harvard health center. Are there mental health resources for those of us on external insurance plans?

All registered students pay a student health fee and this covers services in HUHS, including CAMHS. There are some exceptions for medical tests, but CAMHS has no charges associated with visits.

Are there any resources for students who struggle with eating disorders?

CAMHS has providers with specialization in Eating Disorders. They can also make recommendations for providers with this expertise in the community if desired.

I am on private insurance and have never seen a therapist but I feel like I need to. How do I find one?

So long as you have paid the student health fee (even if you haven’t signed up for the student health insurance), you do have the option of seeing a clinician in CAMHS. Another option is to call the phone number on the back of your insurance card and ask your insurance company for the names of providers in this area who are covered by your insurance. Insurance companies will assist their customers and help them navigate the insurer’s website listings of covered therapists. Some students find it helpful to see if the therapist also has a listing through Psychology Today – often there is a photo and more information about that clinician’s therapeutic training and approach there. You can, after having an initial 30 minute consultation with one of our clinicians, request assistance from our Referral Coordinator with the process of identifying a clinician, in the community, who is a good match for you.

Can I seek a therapist’s help even if the situation is not that serious? Like I feel anxious about law school now but I’m not sure if I need serious help.

Students can access counseling in CAMHS regardless of whether there is a formal diagnosis of a mental health disorder. For example, it is not uncommon for students to have short-term issues (involving a roommate, an unexpected loss, routine adjustment to a new setting) and while these circumstances can benefit from counseling, there is no need for this to be a mental health condition in order to justify receiving counseling support.

New to CAMHS’ website is an anonymous screening tool that students can us to assess the current wellbeing and mental health status. The screening tool will give a student a summary of the results of their survey. The link is at the top of the first page of our website.

Is there a limit to the number of free consultations you can have with a therapist employed by Harvard’s counseling service?

CAMHS provides short-term counseling that is covered by your Student Health Fee. There is no single number for the amount of sessions because we want to be able to use good clinical judgment to address your needs. What we’ve noticed in reviewing statistics, is that most students, on their own motion, feel as though they’ve achieved their short-term counseling goals in 6-8 sessions. Some students feel that they address their presenting concern in 3-4 sessions and they finish the work knowing that they can come back to their clinician in the future, if needed. If a student needs more ongoing, weekly time with a therapist, a referral to a community therapist would be recommended.

How accessible are the HUHS therapists? Is there a ton of people waiting to see like 3 people?

CAMHS is currently a staff of 53 clinicians. The wait time to see clinicians varies with the time in the semester. The easiest time to get an appointment is at the beginning of the semester until the beginning of October, approximately. The wait time extends to about 2 weeks over the next month or so and as the semester winds down, we see a longer waiting period to get an appointment. We tend to have more urgent care available during this time since students are often much more stressed out about their academic work.

 If you have the university’s health insurance, do you have to do an intake appointment with a university counselor before pursuing an off­ campus counselor?

No! You can reach out directly to providers in the community. Typically, CAMHS does request an initial consult (phone or in-person) for ½ hour before making a referral to the Referral Coordinator so that we can gather the information that will assist with achieving the best fit for your needs and goals. If you don’t want to have to tell your story twice, it’s prudent to see a community provider from the start.

Can the therapy sessions be used for couple’s therapy?

CAMHS provides individual and group therapy for students, but, does not provide couple’s therapy. However, CAMHS’ Referral Coordinator can provide assistance with identifying couple’s therapy providers in the community who might accept your health insurance (either student health insurance or other/private insurance).