This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Questions & Answers

Published: March 6, 2003

David Gilles-Thomas, a psychologist with Counseling Services, is former interim director of the unit.

What is Counseling Services?
Counseling Services is the mental health office within Student Affairs, offering a full-range of services and programs to currently registered students. We are part of the larger Student Wellness Team, comprised of Counseling, Student Health and Wellness Education. Our mission is to promote the personal development and psychological well-being of students through primary and preventative strategies. We are strongly committed to services and programming that will help contribute to and respect individual and cultural diversity. Counseling Services has a staff of six psychologists, two social workers, a consulting psychiatrist, a psychiatric resident, three full-time, pre-doctoral psychology interns, several social work interns, graduate assistants and beginning and advanced practicum students. Our commitment is to offer the best in mental health services while also maintaining our integration into the university's educational mission.

What services do you provide?
We offer a range of services. These include individual, group and couples counseling, as well as psychiatric services, crisis response, career counseling, substance abuse assessment, psychological evaluation, psychoeducational skill-building workshops for the entire campus community, consultations services for faculty and staff, and referral. We also offer extensive training at the graduate level. Our center is accredited by the American Psychological Association as a pre-doctoral psychology internship site for which we recruit candidates from across the country and Canada. We also are an internship site for the School of Social Work and we offer beginning and advanced practicum training for UB's Counseling, School and Educational Psychology program.

Why is there a stigma about seeking counseling?
It is difficult for some people to seek out psychological services. Historically, counseling was seen as something somewhat mysterious and shameful. This is unfortunate, as counseling can be a great assistance to some people. I think that over the past decade or so, people are becoming increasingly aware that seeking out support for mental health concerns is not a shameful thing, but can be an important part of an overall wellness approach to life. Ours is a culture of "rugged individualism" and to seek out help from a professional for something that may be intimate and very personal can be felt as shameful, or even as a personal "failure." There also can be cultural influences in this as well, as not all cultural belief systems will understand or value self-reflection and personal growth in the same manner as someone from the West may understand it. The reasons for stigma can be many and varied, and we attempt to address each person's concerns about this uniquely.

What are the most frequent problems that students bring to Counseling Services?
Counseling Services works with students presenting with a full spectrum of concerns, from developmental issues to severe psychopathology. The most common issues students bring to counseling include relationship concerns and conflicts (e.g., dating, friendships, family), life direction questions (e.g., decisions about career and major), low self-confidence, puzzling or distressing emotional states, self-defeating behaviors, controlling the use of alcohol and drugs, studying more effectively and sexual-identity concerns. Interestingly, many of the questions that students bring to us are actually widely experienced by other students, but because of the stigma attached to counseling, students do not always share with their peers the personal concerns they are having. As a result, the student's distress becomes his or her own secret, he or she believes no one else is in counseling and that he or she is the only one experiencing such a problem. We offer an extensive group counseling program—approximately a third of our clients participate in one of our groups—and it is there that many students break through the secrecy and find they are not alone with their struggles. This discovery of similarity with others often reduces the intensity of the struggle itself.

Are your services available to faculty and staff?
While we do not offer counseling services to UB faculty and staff, we do offer consultation services to faculty and staff. For example, we can assist faculty and staff with how to approach a student in distress or assist a department after a crisis has occurred. More information about such services can be found at our Web site at

What is the Safe Zone?
As part of our commitment to a diverse and safe campus community, Safe Zone is a program designed to reduce homophobia and heterosexism on the UB campus. The program provides training to campus groups about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues, and offers information on how to become a supportive resource for all students, regardless of sexual orientation. The mission of Safe Zone is to make our campus a safer and freer environment for all members of our community. Anyone wanting more information should contact our office.

Tell me about the Counseling Center Village.
The Counseling Center Village is a Web site I developed several years ago as a resource for university and college counseling center professionals. It brings to a single Web site numerous on-line resources created by and designed for counseling center professionals across the country and around the world. It contains practice information, administrative materials (e.g., sample policies and procedures), staff development resources, job search information, pre-doctoral training materials and tips on developing a counseling center Web page. It is widely used by counseling professionals and graduate students—it has been identified by the American Psychological Association as a top Web site—and has been a wonderful way to foster collaboration between counseling professionals the world over.

What question do you wish I had asked, and how would you have answered it?
What is the Student Wellness Team? The Student Wellness Team was created during the past year and is a very exciting development here at UB. Counseling Services, Student Health and Wellness Education (formerly the Living Well Center) have brought their offices together into an overall functional unit, while maintaining the unique identities of each office. The mission of the Student Wellness Team is to foster professional collaboration so that the expertise of each office is capitalized on in an integrative manner and so that treatment provided to students is approached from within a holistic framework. Everyone should keep their eyes open for new initiatives and programs developing out of this collaboration.