Based on data collected from 2007-2016, the YU Counseling Center has confirmed a steady increase in the proportion of students utilizing its psychological and psychiatric services. It is currently seeing a notable 20-25% of the undergraduate student body as compared to the 15% it saw in earlier years. In the last academic year alone, the Counseling Center conducted a total of approximately 3500 counseling sessions with undergraduates.
“The numbers we mentioned are very promising in that they seem to indicate that stigma is decreasing and that there is higher awareness and normalizing of mental health concerns,” said Counseling Center director Dr. Yael Muskat. “More students each year seem to be recognizing how counseling can be an important part of self-care and personal well-being.”
Muskat emphasized that “any student who needs emotional or psychological support is encouraged to visit, regardless of whether they are looking for a one-time consultation or more ongoing help. One of the most common misperceptions is that only people with very severe or chronic mental health issues should come to counseling. In reality, therapy can be beneficial in dealing with a range of issues. If someone is not functioning as well as they would like to be, that in itself could be a reason to seek help.”
“I visited the Counseling Center over three periods of time during my time in YU, and all for different reasons,” shared Wilf alum Avi Schwartz. “The first time was because I was having trouble with my school work and my time management, the second time was because I was having trouble dealing with a breakup, and the third time wasn’t for me, rather for a friend of mine who was in danger of hurting himself. All three times, I was helped tremendously by the Counseling Center. My time in YU would have been drastically different had I not known about it.”
Fellow alum Etan Neiman shared, “For so many years, there had, for the most part unbeknownst to me, been something unnatural going on with my brain chemistry and the way I think. Gradually, I realized it was Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression Disorder. From there, it became patently clear that ending the secrecy was so key to getting healthier… that I wanted to after so many years get another opinion on the topic. So I told a close friend the deal, and at his advisement sought out the council of a staff member in my morning program who referred me to the Counseling Center. What’s pretty crazy for me to think back on is that I didn’t even know that it existed beforehand.” As far as how the actual sessions went, “We mostly talked about my life, which is actually pretty awesome, that for an hour a week, you get to sit there and just talk about yourself.” He noted that though it is standard practice to “see a doctor for your eyes once a year, and a doctor for your teeth twice a year… Your brain is a pretty important part of your body too.”
Beren student Stefani Schaechter started going at the suggestion of a friend, because “there was a lot of stuff going on in my life, and I was just very sad all the time. I was finally able to have someone validate my emotions and feelings. My first session was really relieving—I got everything out and it felt very good, but I remember that I didn’t think the third session was a good one at all. But in truth, it’s all part of the process. [My therapist] really helps me try to channel my brain into thinking differently, and gives me the tools to figure it out on my own. It’s cool, and she’s great.”
Another student reflected that through counseling, he “became better at managing my anxiety, and was able to integrate various extracurriculars into my schedule. It made me a more fulfilled person. In this way, I can say that counseling has been the ‘X factor’ in my time at YU; it enabled me to thrive.”
The psychological and psychiatric services that the Counseling Center provides are free to all undergraduate and graduate students. “These sessions are fully confidential, allowing a unique relationship to develop between students and clinicians,” said Muskat. I have myself visited the Counseling Center, and become far healthier and happier thanks to its support. For a student who prefers to seek services outside of YU, the Counseling Center also has a strong network of referral sources.
The eight therapists and two psychiatrists on staff range from advanced graduate students to those with over twenty years of experience. Male and female clinicians work on both campuses, and all are trained to work with the diverse community at YU. In addition to their own various specialties, they also partake in continuing education programs covering topics such as substance abuse, couples and relationship counseling, and trauma and eating disorder treatments.
Dr. Rochelle Ausubel, a Senior Psychologist on staff, explained that her goal when meeting with a student “is to make them comfortable enough to discuss the important issues that are on their mind with candor. With meetings over time, my goal for each individual is to recognize those areas that are impeding the student from feeling their ‘best self’ and help them become aware of various possibilities and avenues for change that may not have been obvious to them initially.”
The favorable statistics observed by the Counseling Center signal progress in mental health awareness at YU. Though recent research shows that 24% of American college students experience clinical anxiety and 16% struggle with depression, mental health stigma hinders some from trying out counseling. “At times, fear of what therapy will be like is also an obstacle to students coming in,” said Muskat. “We have found that once students overcome that hurdle and do come in, they see that the process is in fact not scary at all.” She and assistant director Dr. Martin Galla attribute the developing interest at YU to the trustworthy reputation that the Counseling Center has earned. Its outreach has been strongly complemented by the impactful programming of student groups on campus such as Active Minds, the Psychology Club and the Alternative Therapies Club.
“What will the reaction be if people find out?” Neiman had initially worried. But since more openly discussing his mental health with peers, he said he feels “at the closest place I’ve ever been with my friends. The thing is, openness brings people closer and my secrecy was almost like a wedge between me and my relationship with others.” Similarly, Schaechter also first preferred to keep her counseling private. She recalled running into her therapist at a campus event, where the therapist addressed her in the same way as every other student in order to maintain confidentiality. “I thought it was so interesting that she didn’t say, ‘Hi Stefani.’ If you see them outside the session, they’re still very professional about it.”
“It’s crazy how the Counseling Center is one of YU’s unfortunately hidden gems,” said Schwartz. “Whenever I hear of a camper or NCSYer of mine who is struggling in YU, I always tell them about the Counseling Center and my experiences there. I didn’t even realize how many people see social workers or therapists, but it’s very normal. Especially considering that outside of YU, seeing a psychologist could be a bit pricey, having a free one on campus is an incredible resource, and it is crucial to take advantage of it.”
Visiting the Counseling Center is often not discussed publicly or even among friends. People still tend to fear being judged or perceived as abnormal. The fact is, seeking counseling is but one of many useful ways in which we can choose to take care of our overall health. Statistics indicate that up to 25% of our YU peers are doing it, and that’s good news.
If you check out the Counseling Center, no matter how private or public you choose to be about it, the staff will maintain full confidentiality in helping you feel your best. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, call either number below, or drop by on Monday-Thursday from 9am-5pm or on Friday from 9am-2pm.
Beren and Cardozo Campus: (646) 592-4210
205 Lexington Avenue, Suite 401
Wilf Campus: (646) 592-4200
500 West 185th Street, Furst Hall, Suite 520