Division of Student Life  >  Center for Health and Counseling  >  Student Counseling Services  >  For Parents of Creighton University Students

Parents and caregivers of Creighton University students are sometimes interested in the services we offer at Counseling Services. We hope we have provided information on this web site that will answer your questions. If you have questions that are not addressed here, or you would like to consult with one of our psychologists, please give us a call at (402) 280-2735.

How We Help Students

All currently enrolled students at Creighton University are eligible for free psychological services at Counseling Services. Our staff works with students on a short-term basis towards managing personal, career and educational concerns which may interfere with their academic progress. We are staffed by  two licensed psychologists, two provisionally-licensed psychologists, two licensed mental health practitioners,  two pre-doctoral psychology interns and practicum student(s) and one support staff (meet the staff) who are all committed to providing effective services and promoting the personal growth of Creighton University students.

Making Appointments

Appointments need to be scheduled by the student him/herself. He or she may call our office at (402) 280-2735, or come by Counseling Services and schedule an appointment with the next available psychologist. Students are asked to arrive for their initial appointment approximately 15 minutes early in order to fill out necessary intake information.

About Counseling Sessions

Individual counseling sessions are typically last 50 minutes.  Counseling can be an opportunity to talk about issues that are of concern to students with an objective person who can help them develop skills and view situations in ways that may enable them to be more effective in managing life's challenges down the road.

If Your Student is in Crisis

Occasionally a student may wish to be seen by a counselor immediately due to a personal or situational crisis. We have a profession staff on-call 24 hours a day. If a crisis occurs during business hours, a student may come to Counseling Services and request to be seen. If a crisis occurs after business hours or on a weekend, the student may call the Creighton Public Safety at (402) 280-2911 and request to speak with the on-call counselor. The counselor will be paged by the Public Safety, and he or she will call the student back.  See also our crisis information page.

Consultation is Available

If you have questions or concerns about your student, the psychologists at Counseling Services are available to speak with you. They can assist you in assessing the situation and its seriousness, and in making a referral. A consultation may help you identify ways you can be most effective with your student, and in locating campus resources that you can suggest to him/her. Please know that if your student is receiving services at Counseling Services, we will not able to provide information about these services due to our adherence to client confidentiality.

Limitations of Our Services

Creighton’s Counseling Services is an outpatient mental health service dedicated to treatment of enrolled Creighton undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.  Generally Counseling Services can treat the emotional difficulties and mental disorders that can safely be managed within the structure of an outpatient service.  The services that Counseling Services can provide are: weekly individual counseling appointments (with no specific time limit), group counseling sessions when an appropriate group is running, access to psychiatric or general medical consultation for medication, and occasional crisis intervention meetings.  There are certain mental health disorders that cannot be effectively treated within the structure and resources of Creighton’s Counseling Services.  Students that cannot be treated effectively or safely within this structure of resources will be referred to mental health resources within the community (in Omaha or in the student’s home community). Situations that require referral include (but are not limited to) the following:  symptoms of disorganized or disruptive psychoses and high suicidal potential requiring inpatient hospital treatment; serious eating disorders; chronic emotional crisis requiring intensive treatment, frequent appointments or special supervision or behavioral management.

Counseling Services office is accredited by the International Association of Counseling Services, and its staff adheres to the ethical principles of the American Psychological Association. Our staff is committed to meeting the needs of all individuals regardless of culture, race, gender, ability, or sexual orientation.

Is Your Student in Distress?

While at Creighton University, students will be faced with a great many personal, academic, and social stressors. Most will successfully navigate these challenges, while others may experience them as overwhelming and unmanageable. As a result, students may feel fearful, isolated, helpless, and alone. This distress can negatively impact a student's academic performance, and lead to disruptive behaviors such as acting out, alcohol/drug abuse, and suicide attempts.

Consultation is Available

While this web page is designed to help you with assisting a distressed student, please remember that the staff at the Counseling Services is available to consult with you about whether and how to intervene with your student. We can help you assess the seriousness of the situation, discuss possible resources on and off campus, learn how to make a referral, and plan for follow-up. Please feel free to call us at (402) 280-2735 to consult with one of our staff.

Signs of Possible Distress

At one time or another, we all experience some degree of distress. However, when some of the following are present, your student may be experiencing significant distress that could interfere with his or her personal and academic functioning:

  • Uncharacteristic decline in academic performance
  • Increased absences or tardiness from class
  • Failure to complete assignments
  • Persistent appearance of depression (e.g., sad mood, loss of interest, tearfulness, weight loss, withdrawal)
  • Anxiety, nervousness, panic attacks, agitation, irritability, non-stop talking
  • Aggressiveness, acting out, emotional outbursts
  • Significant change in personal hygiene, dress, appearance
  • Bizarre behavior, speech, or mannerisms
  • Talk of death or suicide, either directly or indirectly (e.g., "It doesn't matter, I won't be around for the final exam." or "I'm not worried about finding a job, I won't need one.")
  • Homicidal threats, either verbal or in written statements

It is important to remember that just because a student appears to be experiencing one of these signs it does not necessarily mean that he or she is in significant distress. Many of the above situations are short lasting. However, if a student's distress appears to be severe, or you notice one or more of these signs over a prolonged period of time, then it may be necessary to intervene. If you have doubts or concerns about the seriousness of your student's problems, please consult with one of the staff members at Counseling Services.

How YOU Can Help Your Student

It is common for students to experience academic, personal and social stress at various points in time while in college. Most students will successfully manage the challenges of college life, while some may have more difficulty. For these students, their experience of distress may negatively impact their academic progress and personal development..

Parents, relatives, or caregivers are often one of the first to notice when a student is in distress. They may also be the first point of contact in helping a student obtain assistance. The urgency of the situation will impact the options you choose. You may decide not to intervene with your student, or you may choose to manage it with a more personal approach. If you determine that the situation is more urgent, you may decide to become more active in your involvement.

If you choose to approach your student with your concerns about his or well being, you might consider some of the following suggestions (adapted from The George Washington University's Counseling Center)

TALK to your student in private when both of you have the time and are not rushed or preoccupied. Give your student your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help him or her feel cared about as an individual and more confident about what to do.

If you have initiated the contact, express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms. For example, "You said you've been absent from class lately and I'm concerned," rather than "Why haven't you been going to class? You should be more concerned about your grades."

LISTEN to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-threatening way. Communicate understanding by repeating back the essence of what your student has told you. Try to include both content and feelings ("It sounds like you're not accustomed to such a big campus and you're feeling left out of things.") Let your student talk.

GIVE hope. Assure your student that things can get better. It is important to help him or her realize there are options, and that things will not always seem hopeless. Suggest resources: friends, family, clergy, professionals on campus and other campus resources. You may not be able to solve your student's problems yourself, but you can assist him or her receive the help that is needed.

AVOID judging, evaluating, and criticizing even if your student asks your opinion. Such behavior may push the student away from you and from the help he or she needs. It is important to respect your student's value system, even if you don't agree with it.

REFER: A referral for counseling may be made when you your student's difficulties appear to go beyond your ability to help. In making a referral it is important to point out that: 1) help is available and 2) seeking such help is a sign of strength and courage rather than a sign of weakness or failure. It may be helpful to point out that seeking professional help for other problems (medical, legal, car problems, etc.) is considered good judgment and an appropriate use of resources. For example, "If you had a broken arm you would go to a doctor rather than try to set it yourself." If you can, prepare your student for what they might expect if they follow your suggestion. Tell them what you know about the referral person or services.

FOLLOW-UP with your student again to solidify his or her resolve to obtain appropriate help and to demonstrate your commitment to assist them in this process. Check later to see that the referral appointment was kept and to hear how it went. Provide support while your student takes further appropriate action or pursues another referral if needed.

CONSULT with a psychologist at the Counseling Services at (402) 280-2735 if you have any questions or concerns about your student. Our counselors can help you assess your student's situation, suggest resources on and off campus, and help you make an intervention with your student.

Understanding Your Student's Adjustment to College

Leaving home and going off to college is a significant event, marking an important life transition for your student. To be supportive during this time, it may be helpful to put yourself in the "shoes" of your student, and try to understand the variety of changes and challenges he or she will face. To help facilitate this understanding, you might take a look at our online article we have made available for students, "For New Creighton University Students."

The following is another article from the University of Delaware's Center for Counseling and Student Development

Changes You Might Expect in Your Student

Most parents report the experience of sending a son or daughter to college as one filled with anticipation, anxiety, confusion and hope. By opening day of the freshman year, many changes have already begun to happen. The student becomes more independent, gains competence in new areas, and learns to develop healthy peer relationships. The college years are a time for a student to continue maturing and learning how to manage oneself and life in general. What does that mean for you as a parent? Here are some of the messages you may hear:

  • "Help!"/"Don't help!" It is sometimes frustrating for parents to go through the growth process with their students, not knowing how to be helpful and receiving messages which are unclear or incomplete. Students may add to the uncertainty by changing rapidly - rejecting your help on Tuesday and actively seeking it on Wednesday. We've often heard about parents in great distress because their student predicted a poor outcome on an exam, but forgot to provide an update when the results were better than expected.

As a parent, it can be difficult to know when to help, when to step back, and/or how worried to get. Usually a parent's best guideline is to provide a steady, supportive home base while recognizing that there will be ups and downs in students' needs and expectations. Try to follow the leads of the students and encourage them to work through a problem with you acting as the coach or cheerleader. Help them balance their thoughts and emotions to make their best decisions. Let them know that you respect their right to make a decision and that you will serve as an advisor when asked. Remind yourself to notice and appreciate their new skills they develop; students often want their families to recognize their progress toward becoming adults. And, remember to take care of yourself in this "Help!"/"Don't help!" process that may cause you a lot of confusion and exhaustion.

  • "So whose decision is it anyway?" Most parents have a high investment in their student's decisions. Problems arise, however, when parents are more invested than students. It can be hard to lessen involvement in a student's decisions out of fear that the student won't assume responsibility. The irony is that students often don't step up to the task of being responsible until parents step back. After all, it's easier to ignore problems when someone else is worrying about them!

Taking a step back as a parent is uncomfortable, and at times frightening, because there is no guarantee that students will assume responsibility nor that they will make the same decision as you would. The fear that the student is not accepting responsibility in the interim makes most parents lose a lot of sleep. There is, however, no need to walk away disinterested and/or frustrated. Consider providing a concerned voice ("We're interested in what you decide, but we know you have to sort this out for yourself.") and remind yourself that you are helping by working with your student on developing his/her own decision-making skills.

  • "College is different than I thought it would be." For many students, coming to Statesboro means finding out what college and life are about. It means learning that being a nurse means more than taking a patient's temperature and that psychology isn't necessarily the major for "people who like helping others." It also means learning how to study and how often to study. Academic expectations are more rigorous than in high school. Students accustomed to receiving "A's" and "B's" have to work much harder to earn the top grades in college. They also have to figure out when they should be studying and how to motivate themselves to do so. Ultimately, they learn when to ask for help and when to resolve issues on their own.

Coming face-to-face with new challenges is common in college. Finding support in dealing with these challenges is equally important. The university has many resources (e.g. counseling, academic advisement, health education, and much more) to address students' needs. In their quest for independence, students sometimes assume that being an adult means it isn't necessary to ask questions. Parents can remind students that asking questions and using available resources reflect maturity - and that doing these things does not detract from their autonomy or growth as an adult. At the same time, parents and other family members can serve key roles in providing the support needed. Students tell us that it is important to know that their parents will offer consistent support as they venture out to meet the world. The influential role which parents have in the lives of students continues through college and beyond.

  • "I'm back!" The first visit home from college is usually an interesting one for the entire family. Students may return home thinking that their newly found independence will be recognized and appreciated by the family. In contrast, parents and siblings continue to live in their usual style and generally expect that the established "house rules" will still apply.

Parents can anticipate that their expectations will differ from those held by students during those first visits home. Instead of creating a situation in which a battle ensues, seeking a compromise that honors both the family's needs and the growing independence of the student might be an appropriate goal. If your son or daughter is commuting to school from home, consider the ways in which his or her new level of responsibility and independence will be acknowledged in the home.

Describing the many experiences which students and their families will have during college is not possible because every family is different. The professional counselors at the Counseling and Psychological Services would be happy to talk with you about your specific situation. Please contact us at (402) 280-2735.

Coping Strategies For Parents

(Below is some good information from the University of Texas Counseling Center.)

Dear Parent,
Having your child begin his or her university career can be a stressful experience for parents, especially if your son or daughter hasn't lived away from home before. During this important time of transition for the family, many parents put their own feelings and reactions on hold while helping their child prepare for university life. Attending to your own emotional needs, however, as well as your child's, will go a long way toward helping everyone feel comfortable with the challenges that going to college represents.

Coping Strategies and "Food for Thought"

  1. Recognize that feelings of ambivalence about your child's leaving home are normal.
    For most families, this step can seem like a dramatic separation of parent and child, although it is usually the separation of adult from almost-adult. It is normal, too, to look forward to the relative peace and quiet of having your active older adolescent out of the house and having the place to yourself, or being able to spend time with your younger children!
  2. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come up.
    There is little benefit in pretending that you don't feel sad, guilty, relieved, apprehensive, or whatever feelings you do have, while your child is getting ready to come to the University. You probably aren't fooling anyone by trying to hide your reactions; a healthier approach is to talk about them-with your family, friends, clergy, or whoever is a source of support for you.
  3. Make "overall wellness" a goal for yourself.
    Especially during stressful times, it helps to get enough sleep, eat healthful meals regularly, and get adequate exercise. Spending some recharging time-doing the special things that you especially like-is another step toward wellness. If you are feeling good, you are more likely to have the energy to help your child and be a good role model.
  4. Remember that, for your child, coming to the University is a tremendously important developmental step toward full adulthood.
    It represents the culmination of the teachings and learning’s of 18 years or so-much of it geared toward helping your child assume a productive place in the world. This is the time when your hard work will show itself in the form of a framework that your freshman will use in beginning to make independent choices. Many parents find that it helps to focus on the fact that providing your child with this opportunity is a priceless gift. Be proud of yourself!
  5. Find a new creative outlet for yourself.
    Especially parents whose last or only child has moved away to college find that taking on a new challenge is an excellent way to manage and channel their energy and feelings. Have you ever wanted to write a book? Learn to fly-fish? Make a quilt? Volunteer in your community? Assume a new project or responsibility at work? Travel? Get your own bicycle and ride all over town? Make a list of all the things you intended to do while your child was growing up, but never had the time to do. Now is your chance!

What Can I Do to Help My Child From a Distance?

Of course, you are still a parent to your almost-adult, and he or she does still need your support and guidance during the college years. Here are some ways you can express your caring and enhance your child's experience at Creighton University.

  1. Stay in touch!
    Even though your child is experimenting with independent choices, he or she still needs to know that you're there and are available to talk over both normal events and difficult issues. Make arrangements to write or call your child on a regular basis.
  2. Allow space for your child to set the agenda for some of your conversations.
    If he or she needs help or support, the subject is more likely to come up if you aren't inquiring pointedly about what time he or she came in last night!
  3. Be realistic with your college student about financial matters.
    Most students come to school with a fairly detailed plan about how tuition, fees, books, and room and board will be paid for, and what the family's expectations are about spending money. Being specific at the outset may help avoid misunderstandings later.
  4. Be realistic as well about academic achievement and grades.
    Not every freshman who excelled academically in high school will be an all-A student at Creighton University Developing or refining the capacity to work independently and consistently and to demonstrate mastery can be more important than grades, as long as the student meets the basic academic requirements set out by the University. Again, these are choices that each individual student makes, though certainly it is appropriate to help your child set his or her own long-term goals.
  5. If your child does experience difficulties at Creighton University, encourage him or her to take advantage of the wealth of resources available for students.
    For academic issues, talking with the professor, teaching assistant or academic advisor is probably the first step. If your son or daughter could benefit from personal or academic counseling, the Counseling & Psychological Services Office is located on campus and professional staff is on-call 24 hours a day.  You can help your child by reminding him or her of the many resources available on campus.

We hope these ideas and suggestions will be helpful to you in dealing with some of the difficulties parents experience when their child goes to college. The freshman year at Creighton University is a tremendously exciting time, both for students and their families, and we hope and trust that you and your child will have a rewarding year!