How Does Counseling Work?

Counseling at Penn State Harrisburg is...

  • Provided by credentialed professionals. Our staff includes a licensed psychologist, two Licensed Professional Counselors, and a Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor.
  • Confidential. We follow strict legal and ethical guidelines regarding confidentiality.
  • Free for currently enrolled Penn State students for most of our services.
  • Tailored to meet the needs of the individual, using a variety of approaches.
  • Brief, in order to best serve the greatest number of students.


Both Pennsylvania law and professional codes of ethics emphasize the importance of confidentiality in a counseling relationship.  However, law and ethics put a premium on safety and emphasize the protection of individuals.  Confidentiality must be breached if the counselor has reason to believe that the client may pose a threat to him- or herself or to others.  Confidentiality may also be breached if the counselor has reason to believe that a child or an elderly or disabled adult is in danger due to abuse or neglect or if the counselor is required to testify in a court of law.  

In order to provide quality services, your counselor may consult with other professionals on occasion. Consultation occurs within the context of clinical supervision and case management by counseling peers.

Release of Information

Professional ethics concerning confidentiality prevent us from even acknowledging that we work with a particular individual. Therefore, if you wish for the counseling staff to confer with family members, roommates, instructors, or other concerned individuals, you must sign a “Release of Information Form.” A signed “Release of Information Form” will offer guidelines concerning with whom we may discuss your situation and will outline any limits on such a discussion.  Of course, a release is not mandatory if confidentiality must be breached (as described above).

Medical or Psychiatric Consultation

In some instances it may be beneficial for the counselor to consult with a psychiatrist, your family physician, or other medical professional. For example, your physician may believe that antidepressant medication would benefit you. Other times we may want to consider that an underlying medical disorder may exist. If a medical or psychiatric consultation or examination is indicated, we will discuss that possibility with you.

Lack of Interruptions

We do not take counseling appointments lightly. We want to give our full attention to the students with whom we work. Office staff will not typically forward phone calls or knock on our doors when we meet students. Unless circumstances dictate otherwise, we will not answer our office phone, check our text messages, or otherwise allow outside distractions. We ask the same of you. Please turn off your cell phone or place it on vibrate mode when we are meeting. If family or work circumstances require you to be accessible, let us know. Otherwise, please treat our time together as a time to focus on the reason that we are meeting.

Limits and Referrals

Due to the number of students seen by a limited number of counseling staff members, we must consider how we can best serve the students who wish to receive our services. During particularly busy times, we may limit the number of individual counseling sessions in order to provide services to those most in need of our assistance. If it appears that a specific counseling issue will need specialized training, we may refer you to a professional or agency with expertise in that area. When making any referral, we will consider the special needs of the student, including the identified problem and transportation, financial, and insurance circumstances.

Hours and Availability

We are usually on campus and available to meet with students 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. when classes are in session. We also hold some evening hours during Fall and Spring Semesters; see our homepage for the most up-to-date hours information. Please do not assume that we will be able to return a phone call or email message immediately if we are not on campus.

If a situation is urgent and our office is closed, please call:

  • Penn State Harrisburg Police (717) 948-6232 or (717) 979-7976 or 911
  • Dauphin County Crisis Intervention (717) 232-7511
  • Contact Helpline (717) 652-4400 or 1 (800) 932-4616.

Evaluation of Services

We constantly evaluate our services. The feedback we receive from students is a major component of our evaluation and assessment. Thus, a staff assistant may provide you with an evaluation form and ask you to complete it as you are waiting for an appointment. Staff assistants, rather than counseling staff, receive the data and store the forms until the responses are tabulated at the end of the semester or academic year. Your name will in no way be connected with the information you provide. If you are uncomfortable with this method of data collection, please let us know. We need your feedback and wish for you to be comfortable in providing it.

What You Can Expect/What We Expect

It is important that you understand what you can expect from us and what we expect from you. We ask you to be prompt, to call ahead of time if you will need to postpone an appointment, and to be open with your counselor. You can expect us to be attentive, empathic, and honest.