College is a period of transition, not only for your student, but for you and other members of your family. During this time of change your student will continue to need your support. Parents and families can help by trusting and encouraging your student in their pursuits. Accept that you won’t know every detail of your student’s life. Most students come to college from a somewhat structured environment. Although your student may never have lived away from you before, it is important to realize that going to college is an exciting and important step in your student’s maturation. The values and ethics you instilled will help your student make good choices and decisions. It is extremely helpful to talk about this with your student throughout their first year at Iowa.

Your student is now at Iowa where staff understand the developmental process and transitional issues experienced by students. Although Iowa can seem like a large place, staff are ready to help students adjust and manage to life here. This requires effort on the part of your student, as staff depend on students to come forward if they need help.

As some of our most important partners in assisting your student’s success, we have some hints and tips to help decide if your student could benefit from counseling:

  • They feel an overwhelming and prolonged sense of sadness and helplessness in their futures
  • Their emotional difficulties make it hard for them to function day to day. For example, they are unable to concentrate on assignments and their class performance suffers as a result
  • Their actions are harmful to themselves or others
  • They are troubled by emotional difficulties facing family members or close friends
  • They just need someone with whom to talk
  • They have been in counseling and mental health services before and need follow-up

The University of Iowa Parent and Family Network is your personal link to the University of Iowa. It is our goal to keep you up-to-date with University policies, procedures, and important calendar dates as well as to provide a helping hand, if it is ever needed.

See our Self-Help Article: If Your Student is in Emotional Distress. A Guide for Parents and Caregivers

Limits of Information

All contacts with University Counseling Services are strictly confidential in accordance with Iowa state privacy laws. Records are not available to individuals or agencies, either on or off campus, without a student’s specific written permission. UCS records are kept separately from medical records and academic records.  By law and by professional codes of ethics, confidentiality is only broken by a counselor when 1) the student is in imminent danger of harm to self or others 2) a therapist suspects abuse or neglect of a child under the age of 18 or other dependent or 3) a court orders a record. Even in these cases, we try our best to work with the student in communicating this information to other parties. In accordance with university policy, UCS records are destroyed after seven years. For more detailed information regarding confidentiality, please click here.

What we can do

Even within the limits of confidentiality, we strive to partner with you, our parents and families. If you have information you feel is important to let us know, we encourage you to call with the understanding that what you share with us can be shared with your student. We are also glad to speak with you in hypotheticals to give you the best idea of what typically happens with students seeking mental health services. Your student can also always sign a “Release of Information” to give us permission to talk directly with you.  Our mission includes working with parents and family, so we strongly encourage you to contact us and let us consult with you to obtain the best outcome possible for you and your student.

Services to minors and dependent adults

While any enrolled student can come to the UCS for an initial consultation, if that student is a minor (under the age of 18) or a dependent adult and ongoing services are the best treatment option, UCS needs permission from the student’s parent or guardian in order to extend ongoing counseling.  Permission is granted when UCS receives a signed “Authorization to Provide Psychological Services” form from the parent or guardian.  Once the Authorization is on file, the student can begin counseling.  

Please Consult With Us - You Are Our BEST Allies!

The University Counseling Service is available to parents and families for a consultation regarding your student’s well-being.  We do consultations by phone but can also meet in-person if this is requested. We can provide information to you regarding how to make an effective referral, how to intervene or bring up your concerns about your student, and help you figure out what best to do about your concern.

Situations in which a consultation can be helpful include:

  • When you are alarmed by your student's behavior or words (for example, if your student is feeling very sad or anxious or threatens to hurt themselves or someone else);
  • When you hear that your student has not been attending class due to depression or personal problems;
  • When you are wondering how to intervene with your student who is making risky choices with alcohol or other substances;
  • When you are worried your student may have an eating disorder;
  • When your student seems to be having a difficult time getting over a relationship breakup or relationship concerns;
  • When you have read something in an assignment that raises your concern about your student.

The consultation may be about how you can personally respond or intervene with your student and/or how to make a successful referral to counseling.

The staff can offer advice and discuss your concerns about a student prior to students coming to the University Counseling Service. Once a student comes to the University Counseling Service and becomes a client of our center, we can receive information from you about your student. However, we cannot reveal any information to you about your student, including whether or not your student has continued to come. Your client may waive the right to confidentiality, giving us permission to share information with you, by signing a Release of Information.

Tips for being supportive with a troubled student (In a consultation we can talk with you about how to do the following):

  • The major way to support a troubled student is to listen and try to be nonjudgmental.
  • Just being present even when there is silence is also helpful.
  • You want to convey that you care and that you are willing to listen.
  • You want to be encouraging and hopeful but not minimizing.
  • Share similar experiences or feelings but do not then take the spotlight.
  • Avoid promising total secrecy in case you need to reveal something to keep the student safe but be reassuring that you will respect the student's privacy.
  • Be clear that there are limits to your support and that professional help is available.
  • Normalize that it is a positive sign to seek help when you need it.
  • Ask if the student is thinking about harming themselves if you are concerned that they are thinking this.
  • Follow up and find out how the student is doing

It’s An Emergency!

If you are experiencing a serious and life threatening crisis, please bypass this information and call 911 immediately!

Otherwise, please find out more about Emergency/Crisis response information.