Personal Counseling for Current Students

About counseling

Counseling is simply a relationship in which one person helps another to better understand and resolve a problem. Friends, family, clergy, professors and others all provide various types of counseling. The type of counseling provided by the university counselor is different from these. First, the university counselor has extensive experience working with students with concerns similar to yours. Second, she has extensive training in psychology and human behavior. Third, unlike friends or family, the university counselor can be very objective about you and your issues. The counseling process can allow you to gain greater insight into your situation and develop more effective ways of responding to life experiences.

Counseling services are free. They’re available to all currently enrolled students at Northwestern.

When to seek counseling services

Students seek counseling when daily problems make it hard to function during day-to-day life. Examples of situations that may be addressed through counseling services include:

  • You have big questions about yourself and your life and need support.
  • The pressure and stress seem too much to handle well.
  • You’re blue or fatigued and the symptoms persist. You might have insomnia or poor appetite as the result.
  • You can’t concentrate very well and it lasts more than a week.
  • You’re bingeing, purging, or eating very little.
  • Your study habits or strategies don’t work.
  • You have struggles with your significant other or family member.
  • You feel compelled to act in ways that are different than how you really feel.
  • You abuse or believe you have a problem with alcohol or drugs.
  • You’d like to develop better relaxation, time management, and stress management skills.
  • You’d like to develop more constructive thinking skills.
  • You don’t have a “problem” – you just want some friendly guidance to help with your growth.

The counseling process

Counseling provides a safe, private environment to help a person understand themselves more fully, make more satisfying choices and become more self-reliant. Progress can be enhanced when the counseling client is motivated to look at and resolve current difficulties.

The first visit with the university counselor will be a time for you and the counselor to explore personal concerns and identify appropriate counseling services. You might have concerns that require longer-term or specialized treatment. In that case, the counselor will make an appropriate referral for you.

To schedule an appointment

Contact Office of Student Affairs

Planning for your appointment

At your first appointment, you will complete some initial paperwork. Plan for your appointment to last 50 minutes. Appointments are scheduled to begin on the hour. If you cannot keep an appointment, please call to cancel as soon as possible. This allows us to offer the appointment time to another student in need of counseling services. Same day counseling appointments are often unavailable due to the high demand for counseling services.


The university counselor is ethically and legally committed to maintain confidentiality about the information disclosed during the counseling process. No information will be released without the student’s written permission, except in the following circumstances: risk of imminent harm to self or others, a court order, the report of abuse or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult, or an at-risk pregnancy due to the use of certain classes of illicit drugs.

Sessions are scheduled in a manner that reduces, but does not eliminate, the likelihood of crossing paths with other students in counseling. In addition, counseling files are kept separate from all other academic files.

Articles on mental health issues

Find helpful information on a variety of issues related to mental health in these articles authored by our university counselor, Becky Lawyer, MA, LPC.

State and local resources

Additional on-campus assistance

Referring a friend to counseling

It can be very difficult for you when someone you care about is in pain. You might find yourself feeling helpless, frightened, frustrated, or angry. You can’t make your friend seek help if they don’t want to or don’t feel they need it, but here are some things you might offer them as a friend:

  • Let your friend know, in some private setting, that you are concerned. Suggest that he or she make an appointment with a counselor to see if we can be of help. Try to phrase your communications in “I” language, rather than “you” language: for example, “I care about you and I am distressed when I see you hurting” rather than “You are in trouble and you need help.”
  • Offer to sit with your friend while he/she calls for an appointment.
  • Offer to accompany your friend to the first appointment and either wait in the waiting area or go in to the appointment with him/her.
  • Cruise the web or the bookstore for information about the concern that is bothering your friend, and pass it along. Invite him/her to compare reactions with you about the information, or talk about the information with a counselor.
  • Invite your friend to look at this website with you if you see something here that might be of interest to him or her.

You may come to the Counseling Center (in the Office of Student Affairs) and talk with the university counselor about your worries about your friend. You need not tell the counselor your friend’s name if you think it might upset them. By coming in yourself, you will be showing your friend how to seek out consultation and support, making it more possible for them to do the same.