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Guide for Parents

For your student, college will likely be a period of great experiences and great challenges - filled with intellectual stimulation and growth, career exploration and development, increased autonomy and self-exploration and discovery, and expansive social experiences. During this period, students often forge a new identity or seek to clarify their values and beliefs. This often includes an examination of their past and involves numerous trials and tribulations throughout their journey of exploration and discovery.

Often overlooked is the fact that the college experience is a significant transition for the parents of college students too. As caretakers of your student, you may experience feelings of happiness, excitement at pride when your student leaves for college. At the same time, you may feel a sense of sadness and pain, and, may have many understandable fears and concerns about your student's future and well-being. You may worry about your student's safety and ability to care effectively for themselves. You may fear “losing” your student as they begin to function more independently and form deep attachments to their peers. You may be concerned about how your student will deal with all of their personal and social challenges, while at the same time, keeping up with their school work.

Whitman College recognizes that a student's development occurs both inside and outside of the classroom. Our strong academic program is augmented with outstanding student support through a variety of departments in the Division of Student Affairs. 

Counseling Services are offered to students as part of the support provided through Student Affairs. The Whitman College Counseling Center provides free, confidential services for any degree seeking enrolled student, including individual and group counseling, emergency psychological services, and psycho-educational outreach and programming. For a comprehensive overview of our services, see Our Services.

Below is some information that may answer some questions but please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your student.

The following information can help you to navigate the process of supporting your student's concerns about their psychological well-being.

Questions and Answers

What services are offered at the Counseling Center?

See Our Services.

Is there a cost for the service?
Counseling Services are offered free to any degree seeking enrolled student at Whitman. Whitman does not cover the cost of services if a student is referred off campus for additional services or services we are unable to provide. See Our Services.

Can I make an appointment for my student?
Appointments can only be made by students themselves. Whitman does not mandate counseling for any student, will not seek out a student who has been referred to us for counseling by another person, or permit others to schedule an appointment for a student. If you believe your student needs counseling services, we encourage you to speak directly to your student about your concerns and your desire for them to seek support services.

What is your policy regarding confidentiality?
Confidentiality is a central value in our center. Creating a trusting environment by respecting student privacy encourages honesty on the part of the student and helps create a safe, trusting environment for the counseling process. We work hard to respect a student’s trust and keep session information private by restricting access to records and other forms of information about a student. Information will not be given to anyone outside the Counseling Center without a student’s formal, written consent. This includes parties who may contact the Counseling Center out of concern for a student including parents, teachers, coaches or friends. In the case where a student is receiving coordinated support from both Counseling, Health and/or the Dean of Student’s office, information will be shared only to the extent that it coordinates the care of the student.

There is one exception to the rule of confidentiality. State laws and professional ethics require us to disclose information about a student, when, in our clinical judgment, there is imminent risk of danger to the self or others.

What if I want to share information with the Counseling Center or my student’s therapist that I believe would be helpful in supporting my child?
In order for you to speak directly with your student’s therapist, your child must give their consent for this discussion to take place. If this is not possible, you may call the Counseling Center and ask to speak to the Director or Assistant Director about your student. We will not be able to confirm whether your student has come in to the Counseling Center or not but we will do our best to take note of your concerns, in the event that we are providing services to your student.

How will I know if my student is receiving Counseling Services and what they are working on in Counseling?
If you want to know if your student has been in to or is coming in to the Counseling Center, we encourage you to ask them directly. We have found that, in most cases, students are willing to be open with their parents at least to the extent of notifying them that they are in therapy. The degree to which students are willing to share additional information about what they are discussing in therapy is entirely up to the individual student. Staff at the Counseling Center will not disclose whether or not a student is receiving or has received services, much less what they are working on, without the student’s written consent. We want students to feel comfortable sharing information with us knowing that it will be kept confidential. Just simply supporting your student’s efforts to address their concerns can help your student feel better.

What if my student has been seeing a therapist on a regular basis prior to coming to Whitman and wants to continue this with a new therapist at Whitman? Can they get this set up before school starts?
We encourage students who are looking to receive on-going counseling while at Whitman as a continuance of work begun prior to coming to Whitman to contact a therapist in the local community (see Limits to our Services).

If my student is taking medication at home, either for a learning disability or a psychological diagnosis, what should they do to continue this prescription once they are on campus?
If your student has a prescription from a medical provider at home, please contact that provider prior to coming to Whitman to arrange for a method to continue that prescription while the student is at school. Students find this is generally easier than finding a new provider in Walla Walla and they arrange for follow up visits with their provider during breaks when they are at home.

If your student who is on medication prior to coming to school encounters some concerns about their medication or psychological situation related to their medication, they should come in to the Counseling Center or the Health Center. The counselor or a clinic physician can assess the situation and, if needed, make a referral to a provider within in the health center, counseling center, or a community medical provider.

What if my student needs psychiatric medication after arriving at Whitman?
Students that would like to be evaluated for new psychiatric prescriptions or for whom the counselor believes a psychiatric evaluation is indicated, can be seen by our Health Center physicians for anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications. Some students may need more comprehensive evaluations than the Health Center can provide and these students will be referred to competent providers off campus.

What if my student has a psychological emergency?
The Counseling Center is available to provide emergency psychiatric evaluation services 24 hours a day/7 days a week when school is in session. Any emergency during regular business hours (8:00am to 5:00pm) will be immediately addressed by one of the staff counselors. Weekend and after hours emergency services are covered by the “on-call” clinician who can be contacted through the Health Center (509-527-5295) or Security (509-527-5777).

What are some resources I can turn to that will help me better support and/or understand my child at this stage in their life?
Sending a loved one off to college can be a challenge. Some common challenges are: feeling helpless to supervise or care for your student from a distance, figuring out the best ways to communicate; experiencing confusion or concern about how to make sense of the cultural differences between the home culture and the college culture, or observing changes in your student’s mood, behaviors, or values. In addition to perusing the Counseling Center website to learn more some of the issues students are dealing with, the following books and websites may be useful as well.

Book Recommendations

  • “Don’t tell me what to do: Just send Money”. Helen Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller, 2000.
  • When your kid goes to College: A Parent's Survival Guide”. Carol Barkin, 1999.
  • “Letting Go: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the College Years”. Karen Levin Coburn, 1997.
  • “You’re on your own (but I'm here if you need me): mentoring your child during the college years”. Marjorie Savage, 2009.
  • “Parent’s Guide to College Life: 181 straight answers to everything you can expect over the next 4 years”. Robin Raskin, 2006.


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