Individual Counseling

Last reviewed: 6/15/2023

Short-term individual counseling is an opportunity to talk with a mental health professional at Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) regarding concerns or problems, such as stress, feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, academic concerns, substance use, issues with friends and family, or relationship concerns. Counseling sessions last approximately 45 minutes.

Feeling stressed? Make an appointment to talk with a mental health professional at Counseling and Psychological Services.

Eligibility for Services

Students who have paid the full Columbia Health and Related Services Fee are eligible for individual counseling (in-person on campus), or alternatively, may request telehealth (Zoom or phone) if they reside in New York State.  Ongoing telehealth counseling is generally not appropriate for students experiencing significant mental health crises. Your CPS provider will help determine if telehealth is right for you.  

If you are neither able to come to campus for appointments and reside outside New York State, we still have a range of services for you:  

  1. assistance in treatment planning by phone or Zoom. Please call 212-854-2878 and request a "Social Work Consultation,"
  2. virtual support spaces,
  3. virtual counseling through our partner agency, WorkPlace Options. Schedule an appointment online and use “Columbia University” to log in. If you encounter any difficulty, please call 212-854-2878.

Note for students on the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan: ColumbiaDoctors practice groups are not part of Columbia Health and are considered an off-campus provider. You need a referral from your on-campus Columbia Health provider to see these specialists.

Getting Started at CPS

Students seeking counseling at CPS for the first time, and those who are returning to CPS after a pause of six months or more must first schedule a treatment planning session.

These appointments are not counseling sessions; they are intended to share information on and facilitate access to appropriate treatment options.

What to expect in a Treatment Planning Session

In these brief appointments we will ask about the concerns you hope to address in counseling, what you may have tried in the past, and gather other basic information to:

  • Ensure that if you are in crisis, you will have immediate access to care without unnecessary delay.
  • Allow us to match you with an appropriate professional for counseling. During this conversation, you are welcome to request a provider of your choice (view staff bios), and we will attempt to honor those requests. 
  • Allow us to assess together about whether you might benefit from one of our many virtual support space options.
  • Allows us to assist you if you are in need of referrals to connect with off-campus resources as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • To direct you, when appropriate, to self-care resources and to provide initial recommendations for managing stress or related issues.

Since we will be discussing personal matters, we encourage you to arrange to be in a private space at the time of your appointment.

If you and your provider agree to initiate counseling at CPS, you will be invited for a first in-person appointment.

How to schedule a Treatment Planning Session

Make an appointment via the Patient Portal or call 212-854-2878 and request a treatment planning session.

These appointments are typically available within two business days. This session may be conducted by phone or Zoom — whichever you prefer.

Please note that the Patient Portal may be used only to schedule treatment planning sessions. To schedule all other appointments, please call 212-854-2878.

Working with CPS

During the first session or two, counselors work with students to develop an individualized treatment plan that best meets students’ needs. While there is no specific limit on the number of sessions at CPS, services are focused on short-term care designed, for example, to help students improve coping skills, better manage distress, resolve immediate problems or meet near-term personal goals.

Many students are able to achieve treatment goals through a relatively brief course of therapy on campus, while others may want or require more specialized or open-ended services and may benefit from an off-campus referral.

Diverse Staff

Successful counseling depends a good deal on personal chemistry. If a student feels for any reason that their clinician is not a good match, CPS will gladly facilitate a transfer to a different clinician at any time. Students need only ask.

The Counseling and Psychological Services team supporting Columbia University students (March 2019).

All CPS providers have experience and expertise in working with a full range of student concerns. Most clinicians also have particular interest, experience, or advanced training in specific practice areas, such as trauma support, eating disorders, sexual and gender concerns, and acculturation concerns, among many others.

Acute Psychiatric Emergencies

Students experiencing acute psychiatric emergencies should call 212-854-2878 for immediate virtual assistance and will be connected to a clinician whenever Counseling and Psychological Services is open.