Parents are key people in the support systems of most college students. The resources in this section of our website are designed to help you play a supportive, mentoring role with your student, as well as a more direct, active role when the situation warrants it. Counseling Service staff members are directly concerned with the social/psychological health of Luther’s students. We know this is a dimension of your student’s health that is important to you, too.
In the How to Help section of the Counseling Service website, you will find resources to help you recognize when your student may be struggling emotionally, talk about these struggles with your student, and help your student get appropriate assistance. You will also find resources specific to helping your student with an abusive relationship, depression and suicidal thoughts, loss and grief, eating disorders, and drug or alcohol abuse.
The Jed Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to prevent suicide and promote mental health among college students, offers excellent suggestions in an article called "Protecting Your Child’s Mental Health: What Parents Can Do." The Jed Foundation, along with the American Psychiatric Foundation, has also created a website called Transition Year for students and parents, with resources for student emotional health and wellness.
Students are welcome to discuss any personal issue, large or small, with a member of the Counseling Service staff.
Please see the Services section of our website for information about how your student may arrange an appointment with a counselor, confidentiality in counseling, and other related information.
Consultation With a Counselor About Your Student
When Your Student Is Not Seeing a Counselor
You are most welcome to call the Counseling Service (563-387-1375; weekdays 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.) to consult with a counselor when you are concerned about your student’s psychological well being. A counselor can listen to your concerns, help sort out how serious or urgent the situation may be, and determine together with you the next steps in assisting your student.
If it seems appropriate, the counselor can help you consider how you can encourage your student to seek counseling, either here or with an off-campus mental health professional. The counselor can also share information with you about other campus resources that might be helpful to your student.
If the situation is urgent and more active intervention by college staff is indicated, the counselor can facilitate this process.
When Your Student Is a Counseling Service Client
If your student is already seeing a counselor in our office, you may wish to consult at some point. Your student’s counselor or another counselor in the office can always listen to anything you wish to share regarding your student. The information you share is most useful when the counselor can bring this information into the next counseling session with the student.
Trust and openness are foundations of a good counseling relationship. This is an additional reason why it is best if the counselor can share any contacts from you with your student. If you would like to share information with your student’s counselor, please talk with your student about your desire to do so and what you plan to share.
If you feel strongly that you do not want your student to know about your call to the Counseling Service, please ask to speak to a counselor other than your student’s counselor and do not share your name, your student's name, or any identifying information about your student. This counselor can listen and can talk with you in general terms about the kind of difficulties your student is having, much as described in the preceding section.
One of the cornerstones of students’ trust in the Counseling Service is the promise of confidentiality, within certain limits. Particularly on a small campus like ours, students want to be sure that their status as Counseling Service clients and anything they share with their counselor are matters that we will keep private and confidential, unless they give us permission to share information or someone is in immediate danger. If confidentiality were questionable, students would be quite reluctant to seek counseling.
According to these guidelines and laws, we are unable to say whether or not a specific student is involved in counseling with us, or to share any counseling information, unless we either have the permission of the client to do so or there is imminent danger of serious physical harm coming to the client or to someone else. (There are other limited exceptions to confidentiality that occur rarely in our setting and you may review them in the policy statement.)
If you plan to consult with your student’s counselor and would like to learn how your student is doing, how counseling is going, how you can best support your student, or other information, please explain this to your student and ask him/her to give the counselor permission to share such information with you.
We are glad not only to listen to your thoughts and concerns, but also to share relevant counseling information with you, as long as we have your student’s permission. With your student’s permission, the counselor may also initiate a consult with you at some point in the counseling process. Parents can be great resources to students as they work their way through difficult issues or situations.
Please know that if your student’s counselor ever thinks your student is in imminent danger of making a suicide attempt or doing serious harm to someone else, the counselor will breach confidentiality to the extent necessary to keep the student safe. Depending on the situation, this can mean immediately involving various college staff, the Decorah Police Department, and/or the Winneshiek Medical Center Emergency Room.
The goal is to get the student to a safe place right away and then plan for continued safeguards to prevent harm. In such a situation, the counselor or the Student Life Office would also contact parents to be involved in planning for the student’s safety.
Counseling Service Parameters and Off-Campus Referral
Counseling Services Parameters
The Counseling Service works directly with 90% or more of the students who request counseling from us. After assessing issues and treatment needs, we refer 7-10% of students to off-campus mental health professionals. We do this when a student appears to need treatment that is longer-term (more than 10-15 weekly sessions), more intensive, or more specialized than we have the resources to provide in our office.
We typically refer students with psychological problems of several years duration to off-campus professionals. We also usually refer students with serious, ongoing substance-abuse problems and with significant eating disorders, since both of these issues require more specialized intervention.
Off-Campus Providers and Insurance Issues
There are a number of mental health professionals and agencies in the Decorah community. Please consult the Off-Campus Mental Health Services section of our website for specific information about these providers.
That same section of the website offers suggestions for how to check your insurance coverage for mental health services. It is important to determine whether you have coverage for providers in Decorah, since they are likely to be outside your preferred provider group.
In terms of more specialized mental health services, psychiatrists are available at Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health Center and Gundersen Clinic in Decorah. For treatment of serious substance abuse problems, we suggest Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health Center or Lighthouse Professional Counseling Services.
You should be aware that we do not have a comprehensive eating disorders treatment program in the Decorah area. From past experience with assisting students, we know that the best treatment for eating disorders includes working with a therapist, a physician, and a dietician. These resources are all available in this area, but not in one agency.
Therefore, you and your student will need to be sure that providers communicate well with you and with each other to help your student maintain his/her health. Therapists at Lighthouse Professional Counseling Services work with eating disorder issues. Dieticians are available in Rochester, Minn., La Crosse, Wis., and in Waukon, Iowa (30 minutes from Decorah). Physicians at Winneshiek Medical Center can provide medical evaluation and monitoring in relation to eating disorders.
You will need to be proactive about securing and coordinating the appropriate resources for your student, if he or she needs continued treatment for an eating disorder.
When an off-campus referral is necessary, Counseling Service staff can assist you and your student to find the appropriate resources. Another excellent resource for arranging off-campus mental health services is Janet Hunter, M.A., R.N., Health Resources Advocate in the Student Life Office (563-387-1020).
Other Campus Support Resources
The Counseling Service and a number of other offices on campus work together collaboratively to support students who are struggling with personal or mental health issues. Staff from the following offices may also be resources for your student.
- Student Life Office: This office is a central clearinghouse for concerns about students’ academic, social, personal, and physical well being. The Health Resources Advocate provides help finding appropriate resources for treatment and support for mental health or medical issues. The office provides help for students and parents with decisions about reducing academic load or taking time away from school, when personal or mental health issues are seriously compromising a student’s ability to cope with college effectively.
- Residence Life: Resident Assistants and Hall Directors/Area Coordinators provide ongoing support to students in the residence halls.
- Student Health Service: Provides help with a wide array of medical issues, including the physical manifestations of stress or mental health issues and the monitoring of medications for depression, anxiety, or other concerns.
- Office of College Ministries: Offers pastoral counseling and many opportunities for students to connect with peers.
- Diversity Center: Provides personal, academic, and social support for U.S. students of color and international students.
- Student Academic Support Center: Provides academic support for all students, including those whose academic work is negatively affected by personal or mental health struggles.
New Students with Recent Mental Health Issues
Many entering college students have struggled with mental health issues at some point in their lives—issues like depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, or substance abuse. And many have been involved in treatment with a mental health professional in relation to such issues.
The stresses of the transition to college can trigger increased difficulty with mental health issues. If your student has dealt with significant mental health concerns in the past couple of years, it may be crucial to his or her academic, social, and personal success in college to be involved in regular counseling sessions during the transition to college in the first semester.
We strongly suggest that you or your student consult with the Luther Counseling Service about your student’s treatment needs and where these can best be met. Since the Counseling Service is closed during the summer, it would be best to do this during the spring prior to your student’s arrival on campus. In the summer, you may consult about your student’s treatment needs with the Dean or Associate Dean for Student Life (563-387-1020).
If your student’s treatment needs are likely to be beyond our resources in the Counseling Service, we strongly recommend that you make arrangements for off-campus counseling well in advance of the start of the fall semester, with appointments to begin as soon as your student arrives on campus.
We also recommend that if your student is currently taking medication for a mental health issue, he or she continues the medication through the transition to college and have the medication’s effectiveness monitored regularly with a provider at home or in Decorah.
Please be aware that it can be difficult for students to communicate with providers at home regarding medication issues while they are here on campus. And it can also be difficult to schedule appointments at home in a timely fashion. Psychiatrists at Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health Center and at Gundersen Clinic or staff at the Luther College Health Service can assist with medication monitoring. If your student will need medication monitoring in Decorah, we advise you to arrange this prior to your student’s arrival on campus.
If your student has been in treatment for significant psychological problems, you should also know that he/she may meet the criteria for having a “psychological disability” and may be eligible for “reasonable accommodations,” as set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act. To explore this, please contact Disability Services.