Mental Health Services for Incoming Students

Whether or not you received treatment for a mental health condition in the past, there are several things you can do to get ready and stay healthy while you transition to campus life and attend classes at WashU.

(Adapted with permission from the JED Foundation’s Transition of Care Guide (PDF), a Set To Go​ program publication).

Getting Ready to Come to WashU

1. Learn About Resources

The Habif Health and Wellness Center website is the place to start. Here you can:

If you do not see the information you are looking for on our website, call 314-935-6695 to find out how we handle referrals for students who need ongoing care — or to get answers to any other questions. (If you would prefer not to identify yourself, say “I’m an incoming student.”)

If you think you might need accommodations or other support services while participating in academics and campus life, visit Disability Resources​ to learn about requesting and using accommodations and get familiar with Disability Resources’ policies and procedures.

2. Know Your Care Plan

If you have been diagnosed/in treatment for a mental health condition, learn the details of your condition and treatment so you can advocate for yourself. Talk to your family and care providers, and take as many notes as you need and organize them in a way that makes you feel comfortable. Here are some key things that you will need to be able to talk about/have on hand:

  • the name of your condition
  • the challenges or symptoms you experience (e.g., anxiety, difficulty concentrating, poor sleep)
  • how these experiences affect your life
  • the treatment you’re receiving (group therapy, medication)
  • how to describe your reactions and responses to your treatment (what’s been helpful and what hasn’t)
  • names and contact information of your treatment providers
  • a picture or copy of your insurance card

Things to Know If You Take Medication

  • name of your medication(s)
  • dosage of your medication
  • what time of day you’re supposed to take your medication
  • how it makes you feel
  • any side effects or problems you’ve had with medication (current and/or past)
  • your medication history (what did you take in the past? Why was it changed?)

If you take medication with supervision from a family member or a friend and want to get ready to be more independent, try a test run of taking responsibility for taking your medication on schedule (ask them to supervise you at first). Medication reminder apps like Medisafe or MyMeds​ can be helpful. Also consider purchasing a weekly pill box, a pill box with a reminder notification feature, and/or a medication lock box.

3. Integrate Your Treatment and Education Plan

To set yourself up for success and stay on track to graduate, it’s helpful to integrate your treatment and your educational goals. If you had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and/or accommodations in the past, these will not automatically transfer to WashU. If you think you will need accommodations at WashU, it is helpful to bring a copy of your IEP or 504 plan or any other relevant documents with you when you meet with Disability Resources​. If you don’t have a copy, it’s helpful if you can describe the purpose and goals of your IEP.

4. Know Where to Get Emergency Help/Be Prepared

Even if it doesn’t happen, it’s good to be prepared in case of a setback or mental health crisis.

  • Make sure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency and keep your emergency contact information current in WebSTAC.
    Examples of a crisis include: suicidal or homicidal thoughts or impulses; hearing voices or otherwise misperceiving reality; overwhelming loss, such as a death in the family; sexual or physical assault.
  • Program these important numbers into your phone:
      • Habif Health and Wellness Center 314-935-6666 (Mental Health and Medical Services)
      • When Habif is closed, call campus police at 314-935-5555 if on campus or 911 if off campus and go to the nearest emergency room.
      • Sexual Assault and Rape Anonymous Helpline (SARAH) peer counseling at 314-935-8080 during the academic year.
  • National Resources for Help

Transitioning to Campus Life and Attending Classes at WashU: Managing Your Care

You have options for managing your care while at WashU:

OPTION A: Continue Care with Clinician(s) from Home

This option might be best if you will be able to be in regular contact with your clinician or treatment team and you are comfortable working with them or you have a complicated problem.

Questions to consider with your parents/guardians and/or treatment team:

  • Will you be too far from home?
  • Are secure online therapy sessions an option? (Note, Skype is not secure).
  • Will phone calls and infrequent face-to-face visits be sufficient?
  • If you take medication, how will you get it?
  • How will you share information between your home clinician and any campus-based providers?

Even if you choose this option, you may still want to connect with the Habif Health and Wellness Center and Disability Resources​ because they can help you with urgent needs, academic accommodations or planning your specific transition experience.

OPTION B: Mental Health Services ​at the Habif Health and Wellness Center

This option makes sense if you need only intermittent individual visits and the additional range of services at the Habif Center can provide sufficient ongoing care and support.

Counseling on campus

We offer short-term, time-limited counseling services for individual students to facilitate adjustment, improve functioning, resolve problems and address acute symptoms impairing personal functioning as soon as possible. We also offer couples counseling (to be eligible, one partner must be a full-time Washington University Danforth Campus student) and emotional support and skills groups and workshops (see more in option 4 below).

Note: The counseling services provided through MHS are not an appropriate substitute for open-ended, intensive psychological services (see “off-campus clinician” below).

Psychiatric care/medication management on campus

Students who choose not to continue with a current provider and are interested in transferring existing care to Mental Health Services at the Habif Health and Wellness Center: please submit all psychiatric medical records for a minimum of the past five years (including any psychiatric hospitalizations and in-patient treatment). We suggest you fax these records to us at 314-935-8515 for the most secure way to submit them and then call 314-935-6695 to verify that we received them.

Full-time Danforth Campus students are eligible for psychological consultation at MHS and psychiatry services are available on an as-needed basis. Student issues requiring immediate psychiatric care for medical stabilization and/or imminent safety concerns are prioritized and seen as quickly as possible.

Learn how to make an appointment at Habif Center.

If you are unsure of whether or not counseling services provided at MHS are the best fit for your needs, and/or if you would like further assistance with off-campus treatment, you may schedule a brief, confidential phone assessment with a MHS staff member. This can be scheduled online through the Student Portal. If you prefer, the screening can be face-to-face.

If you are unable to schedule the assessment using the student portal, you may call 314-935-6695 for assistance.

Questions to consider
  • Is your home clinician or treatment team okay with you receiving intermittent visits?
  • Will limited face-to-face visits be sufficient?
  • What additional services at the Habif Center can provide support?
  • Has your clinician/treatment team from home shared necessary information and records with the Habif Center?
  • What will work best for you financially?
  • Do you need treatment for ADHD?
    • ​If so, start by submitting your ADHD medical documentation to MHS by fax to 314-935-8515 and following up by phone at 314-935-6695. This must be done before an ADHD appointment can be scheduled. Documentation should include a comprehensive psychological assessment (we cannot accept handwritten notes).
  • While MHS does not provide psychological assessment of ADHD, we can provide contact information of local area providers that provide this service. Call 314-935-6695 for assistance. See more information on our psychiatry services, including important semester deadlines.
    If you have not had psychological testing and do not wish to be tested, we recommend that you continue to get your medication from your current provider. You may also seek care from a community psychiatric clinician in the area.

OPTION C: Off-Campus Clinician

For assistance with accessing off-campus treatment, visit our Guide to Community Mental Health Services.​

If you need long-term care and regular face-to-face visits, the Habif Center can help you with referral suggestions to clinicians off campus and private care that fits your clinical needs.

Questions to consider:

  • Are the off-campus clinician referrals affordable and/or do they accept your insurance?
  • Can you and/or you and your family meet the off-campus clinician before you transition to WashU so you can set up a plan in advance?
  • Do you and/or your family have adequate funds to pay for private care?
  • How will you get to your off-campus provider?
  • If possible, you and your family can try to meet the off-campus clinician before going to school and have a plan set up in advance.

If you decide to engage in treatment with an off-campus clinician it’s important to make sure your home clinician sends your treatment notes and information to your new local clinician so you can have a continuity of care. If you intend to also keep in touch with your clinician from home, you should make sure that your parameters for communication between your home clinician and your new clinician are clear.

Even if you choose this option, you may still want to connect with the Habif Center and Disability Resources because they can help you with urgent needs, academic accommodations, or planning your specific transition to college experience.

OPTION D: Emotional support and skill groups on campus

2018 offerings include eating disorder support, Doing Better Today (dialectical behavior therapy skills), mindfulness skills, an interpersonal process group, an international chat group, and the WashU Recovery Group (for those in recovery from substances).

OPTION E: Self-guided services

TAO Self Help or TAO with Therapy, and/or
Let’s Talk​, brief, confidential drop-in consultations with MHS counselors at sites across campus, can help with your transition.

OPTION F: Nonurgent undergraduate peer support

from Uncle Joe’s Peer Counseling and Resource Center​

Coordination is Key

Make sure you and all of your providers are all in agreement about specific parameters of your care: how often, who is the lead clinician, how will changes in treatment be handled, etc.

  • Make sure you know how to describe your prior care, current needs and medications.
  • Have your treatment records sent to the offices and clinicians with whom you’ll be working. Make sure these are regularly updated.
  • Be proactive and increase your chances for academic success by sharing your documentation with Disability Resources and notifying professors about your accommodations at the beginning of the semester starts. Accommodations do not apply to coursework already completed.
  • Make sure to know what medical insurance you have and how to use it.

Clinical services at the Habif Center are strictly confidential.

If you want anyone else to know about your treatment or care plans, make sure proper releases of information are filed with necessary clinicians and offices. Be specific about when, under what circumstances, and how information will be shared in the event of a problem or emergency, and when family or other guardians will be contacted.