Counseling Services

We believe that everyone could benefit from counseling from an objective, knowledgeable, and caring person at some time. For some of us, this time occurs during the college years. The goal of Counseling Services is to help students maximize their sense of well being as well as their academic, personal and social growth. Counseling Services staff are available in case of a crisis on evenings and weekends. Call Public Safety at 518-276-6611 and ask to speak with the on-call counselor.

Counseling Staff

Counseling Services, which is part of the Student Health Center, is staffed by two licensed Ph.D. psychologists, three licensed social workers, and two licensed mental health counselors, all with specialized training in college health issues. Counseling Services provides a variety of services to meet your needs, including (but not limited to) individual, group, and couples therapy, faculty/staff consultation, and outreach services. 

Hours & Location

Our hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm during the academic year. For an appointment, please call 518-276-6479 or use the on-line portal (for new clients only). Please do not use email to make appointments.

We are located at 4100 Academy Hall, 4th Floor.  

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Maintaining confidentiality is an important part of the counseling relationship. The information that you share with a counselor will not be disclosed to any outside person or agency without your written permission. This includes parents, faculty, future employers, etc. The Counseling Center will not even disclose whether or not a student has used our services. The only exceptions to this strict policy of confidentiality are situations where the client is likely to harm himself/herself; where there is a reasonable suspicion of abuse of children or of an elderly person; when students are not yet 18 and disclosure is to the parents(s)/guardian(s); where the client presents a serious danger of violence to another; or where disclosure is required by law, including in fulfillment of a valid subpoena or court order. 


Coping with COVID and Being Cooped Up

Right now, many of us are worried about COVID-19 and feeling isolated from others. We may feel helpless about what will happen or what we can do. When things feel uncertain or when we don’t generally feel safe, it’s normal to feel stressed. 

Stress can be a normal reaction, but sometimes it can also take a toll on our mental health. We don’t always know it is happening. You might feel more on edge than usual, angry, helpless or sad. You might notice that you are more frustrated with others or want to completely avoid any reminders of what is happening.

Coping Strategies to Consider

  • Keep things in perspective. It is totally ok and normal to have some worry about COVID-19, however keeping things in perspective can help to manage this. Often anxiety increases when we face new or unknown challenges. All of us have experienced a new or unknown challenge thus we are not alone in this. Reflect on what you have done in the past to support yourself in times like this and share these resilience building resources with each other via phone and video calls.
  • Stay connected with your social support system. Maintain connections with others by talking on the phone, texting or chatting with people on social media platforms. Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling. You don’t have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with others.
  • Challenge yourself to stay in the present. Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them. Engaging in these mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.
  • Practice Meditation and Mindfulness. There is no shortage of on-line resources to help you meditate and take a mindful approach to life. One resource we recommend, because it comprehensive and supported by research, is the Headspace App. Review the free resources and subscription plans at:
  • Stay physically active. Get outdoors, but stay at least 6 feet away from others – take a walk, hike, bike ride, meditate, or take up bird watching. Indoor exercise – stretch, do yoga, tai chi or qi gong, join an on-line exercise class. Exercise, fresh air and sunshine will help both your physical and mental health.
  • Seek additional help when necessary. Individuals feeling they are in crisis during this time can reach out crisis support services. Click below for support resources.

Support Resources to Connect With

Mental Health Counseling – options for speaking to a professional:

  • Rensselaer Counseling Center – counseling consultations for students will be conducted via phone. To schedule an appointment, email or call 518-276-6287.
  • Contact your health insurance company to find an in-network provider list and understand what services may be covered.
    • If you are enrolled in the student insurance plan (CDPHP) call their Crisis Hotline 1-888-320-9584 provides 24-hour assistance and crisis management. A caring professional is available, day or night, to offer support.
  • Betterhelp – A teletherapy counseling website available 24/7 at a cost for subscription. More information can be found at
  • APA’s Psychologist locator tool can be accessed at 
  • Psychology today’s Find a therapist tool can be accessed at


Crisis Support – when you need help now:

  • Rensselaer On-call Counselor - Call the Department of Public Safety 518-276-6611 and request to speak with the Counselor-on-Call.
  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline - also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service. They are a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, substance use and information service, in English and Spanish. 1-800-662-HELP (4357)  
  • NAMI HelpLine - National alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI provides advocacy, education, support and public awareness so that all individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Contact them by calling 1-800-273-8255 or texting TALK to 741741


Virtual Escapes

Check out these suggestions for joyful distractions from Harvard University.

To take a virtual vacation, click here!


Common Mental Health Problems

The following are descriptions of common mental health problems that affect some college students. While the symptoms may vary from student to student, the following descriptions may help provide you with some basic information about these disorders. If you have concerns that you, or a friend of yours, may be affected by one or more of these problems or disorders, please call the Counseling Center to consult with our staff.


Anxiety is often described as intense worry or a sense of being fearful. Students may have a sense of tension, discomfort, unrest, feel jittery, or on edge much of the time. Those who are anxious often have a preoccupation with negative thinking and a sense of doom. Counseling can help students learn coping skills to diminish the negative physical and psychological effects of anxiety and stress.

Millions of people suffer from anxiety disorders such as...

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) iinvolves consistent exaggerated worries about everyday events and activities, expecting the worst even when there's no rational reason to. GAD lasts at least 6 months and may be accompanied by headaches, nausea, fatigue, trembling, and muscle tension. The things people worry about are often things that are out of their control and hours can be spent trying to find ways to feel more in control.
  • Social Phobia; an overwhelming fear of scrutiny, humiliation or embarrassment in social situations. As a result of this discomfort, social situations are often avoided.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Recurrent, unwanted obsessions (thoughts) or compulsive rituals (behaviors) that sufferers feel are out of their control. Performing rituals such as counting or hand washing often provides only temporary relief, as this illness is often chronic and subject to relapses.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): People who have experienced a traumatic event such as natural disaster, a car crash, child abuse, rape, assault or war may have flashbacks, nightmares or a numbing of their emotions. They may also feel depressed, irritable, angry and easily startled or distracted.
  • Panic Attack/Panic Disorder: When intense fear strikes without warning; it could be a panic attack. Symptoms include: rapid heart rate, sweating/hot flashes, trembling, shortness of breath or hyperventilation, tingling in fingers or toes, nausea, chest pain, headache and dizziness, abdominal distress, a sense of impending death. Many people go to the ER after they feel these symptoms thinking it's a heart attack. Panic attacks start abruptly and often last about 10 minutes.

Taking care of yourself is important. There are things you can do to manage anxiety.

  • Exercise can help improve your mood by helping you to relax, increase your stamina, release natural "tranquilizers," and improve your sleep.
  • Good nutrition habits will fortify your body.
  • Avoid harmful substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and other drugs. While they appear to cause a break in your symptoms, they will likely end up making them worse.
  • Relax with pleasurable activities, tune in to activities you have enjoyed in the past and engage in them again.
  • Argue against negative thoughts. When you have negative thoughts, note them, evaluate them, then respond to them with more rational helpful thoughts. Recognize that you may have to work at feeling better.
  • Comfort yourself with companionship from family and friends. While it might feel easiest to avoid others, look for opportunities to connect with others when you can.
  • Having some social support is one of the best methods of feeling more relaxed.
  • Use relaxation exercises. Try 10 minutes of slow, deep breathing. Also try guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, or use CDs with relaxation exercises recorded.
  • Yoga can be helpful.
  • Meditation and/or prayer can help a person to feel more relaxed.
  • Get enough sleep, about 8 hours, too little or too much sleep is not helpful.
  • Utilize time management, make lists and prioritize tasks. Consider saying "no" to people who ask for too much.
  • Practice good communication skills and being assertive.
  • Laugh, humor is a wonderful stress reliever and mood enhancer.

You don't have to live with stress and anxiety. It is important to get appropriate help.

The links below connect to a variety of relaxtion exercises that can be used to reduce anxiety.


Depression is a medical condition that can affect a person's ability to work, study, interact with people, or take care of themselves. Depression symptoms can last for months or even years if left untreated.

Depression is a complex set of symptoms that can include difficulty with motivation, emotion, cognition, and changes in behavior.  When depressed, it is common to experience intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, poor appetite, lack of energy, low motivation, negative thinking, and social withdrawal. In some cases, thoughts of suicide will be more likely when depressed.

Depression is not always easy to spot. Feelings of depression can be expressed through drug or alcohol abuse, irritability, sexual promiscuity, risk taking behaviors, aggression, or social withdrawal.

Many factors can contribute to the onset of depression, including the presence of other emotional disorders, constant self-criticism, having unrealistic expectations, stress, poor nutrition, physical illness, personal loss, and relationship difficulties.

If you have problems with depression, you are not alone. Depression affects about 19 million people in the US every year, and research suggests that nearly half of all college students have felt so depressed that they found it difficult to function during the last school year.

Depression is treatable. Medication and/or counseling can help. The majority (80-90%) of people who receive either medication or counseling for depression experience significant improvement, and almost all individuals gain some relief from their symptoms.

Causes of Depression

There is no single cause for depression. There are many factors that contribute to depression, including: life events, environment, medical conditions, genetics, and the lack of good social supports. Some factors may increase the chance of depression including: a history of abuse, conflict, certain medications, personal problems, and substance abuse.

How do I know if I'm depressed?

If you have been feeling miserable more often than not over the past two weeks or more, and you stopped enjoying things that used to be fun, you might be depressed. Check the symptoms below if you are experiencing three or more it is likely you are experiencing a bout of depression.

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness and/or helplessness
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Persistently sad, anxious, irritable or empty mood
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Significant change in appetite and/or weight
  • Anger and rage
  • Feeling restless or agitated
  • Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, or chronic pain that does not respond to routine treatment
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

(link to on line assessment)

Taking care of yourself is important. There are things you can do to alleviate depressed mood.

  • Change your normal routine by taking a break for a favorite activity or something new — even if you don't feel like it.
  • Look for and initiate social contact.  Social support and spending time with friends is one of the most effective methods of treating depression.
  • Exercise to work off tension, help you relax, and perhaps improve your ability to sleep.
  • Avoid known stressors
  • Avoid negative thoughts and put-downs that might make you feel worse
  • Avoid making long-term commitments, decisions, or changes that make you feel trapped or confined — it is better to put them off unit you feel you are better able to cope.

If you are not sure if you are improving, contact the Counseling Center to discuss having an evaluation.

I’m concerned a friend is depressed, now what do I do???

The best thing you can do for a depressed friend is to offer support and refer them to other resources. If you notice signs of distress, ask your friend to meet in private. Express your concern, point out what you've observed, let them know you care and want them to get help.

You are not responsible for their well-being. Share your concerns with a professional. Talk to your RA, LA, class dean, or a counselor at the counseling center.

It is not uncommon for people who are depressed to think about suicide. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, seek help immediately. If you know someone has made a suicide attempt, even if very minor, it is very important that they seek help.  One of the best predictors of a future suicide attempt, is a past history of having made an attempt.

If you think that you or someone you know may be depressed, or is considering harming themselves, contact the counseling center at 518-276-6479.

On-line Resources

Eating Concerns

Do you feel your thoughts are dominated with issues related to body image, weight, or shape. Do you have rigid patterns of food management which creates problems or concerns. Counseling can help to sort out feelings and thoughts which lead to problematic patterns of food intake and exercise.

Do I have an Eating Disorder?
You may have an eating disorder if feel that your behavior is consistent with the concerns mentioned below. 

Anorexia Nervosa:   a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. You may have anorexia if you have missed you period, you obsess about being thin, or you skip meals and avoid food related social situations. 

Bulimia Nervosa:  is also a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of binge eating and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, or exercise in an ineffective attempt to compensate for a binge.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of behaviors to try to "make-up" for the binge eating.

Do I have Disordered Eating? You may not have an eating disorder but disordered eating can take a toll on your mental, emotional, and mental well-being. Disordered eating can be a real problem and can lead to eating disorders if it continues.  Answering yes to one of the following can be a sign of eating problems.

Do you…

  • regularly calculate fat grams and calories?
  • weigh yourself often and find yourself obsessed with the number on the scale?
  • exercise to burn off calories and reduce your guilt from eating, not for health and enjoyment?
  • often feel it is difficult to control when and what you are eating?
  • feel ashamed, or guilty after eating?
  • constantly worry about the weight, shape or size of your body?
  • feel like weight loss, dieting, and/or control of food has become one of your major concerns?

Perfectionism versus Healthy Striving

Most people experience some drive to improve their performance on some tasks, whether running faster, scoring more or earning a higher grade. Perfectionism, however, is not a healthy pursuit of excellence. Those who strive for excellence in a healthy way take pleasure in trying to meet high standards and are more easily able to cope with the human side of their errors. Perfectionism, however, results in struggles with personal doubt and fears of criticism, and disapproval. Often times, perfectionism impairs performance and leads to chronic procrastination.


  • Setting standards that are beyond your grasp and unreasonable
  • Never being satisfied by anything less than something being done to perfection
  • Becoming depressed when faced with failure or disappointment
  • Avoiding challenge because of a fear of failure
  • Being preoccupied with fears of failure and disapproval
  • Frequently procrastinating because a task seems too overwhelming to do perfectly
  • Becoming overly defensive when criticized


Thought for the day "While achieving perfection is impossible, chasing perfection can result in catching excellence".

A healthy striving involves your:

  • Setting standards that are high but within reach
  • Enjoying the journey as well as outcome
  • Bouncing back quickly from failure or disappointment
  • Accepting failure so that it does not create an impediment to success
  • Seeing mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning

Coping Strategies

Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of trying to be perfect. 
When you make your own list of costs and benefits, you may find that the costs are too great. 

Increase your awareness of the self-critical nature of your all-or-nothing thoughts, and how they extend to other people in your life. 
Learn to substitute more realistic, reasonable thoughts for your habitually critical ones. When you find yourself criticizing a less-than-perfect performance (whether your own or someone else's), make yourself stop and think about the good parts of that performance.

Engage in stress reducing activities  (Link to relaxation training podcasts)

Be realistic about what you can do.

Set more realistic goals, and you will gradually realize that "imperfect" results do not lead to the negative consequences you expect and fear

Set strict time limits on each of your projects. When the time is up, move on to another activity. 
This technique reduces the procrastination that typically results from perfectionism.

Learn how to deal with criticism. 
Criticism can be viewed as a personal attack, which may result in responding defensively. Concentrate on being more objective about the criticism, and about yourself. Remind yourself that with challenge will come some error.  Remember that criticism is a natural thing from which to learn, rather than something to be avoided at all costs

Learning to accept failure is an important aspect of building the resilience needed to adapt to challenges.  This link is to the article, How to Have a Successful Failure.


Relationship Problems

These problems may involve difficulty with initiating or maintaining social or intimate relationships, or getting out of an unhealthy relationship.  Counseling can help with improving communication skills, and promoting problem solving and identification of core issues.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders are very common on most college campuses and can include insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders and the parasomnias.

Insomnia is characterized by disturbed nighttime sleep usually identified when a person has difficulty falling asleep, and/or staying asleep.  It is also not unusual to have frequent awakenings during the night, and some report that the don’t feel refreshed after sleeping.

Almost everyone occasionally suffers from short-term insomnia. This problem can result from stress, jet lag, diet, or many other factors. Insomnia almost always affects job performance and well-being the next day. About 60 million Americans a year have insomnia frequently or for extended periods of time, which leads to even more serious sleep deficits.

Mild insomnia often can be prevented or cured by practicing good sleep habits 

Parasomnias are unusual behaviors during sleep. Some of these events include sleepwalking, night terrors, active dreams, nightmares, and teeth grinding.  Often, these incidents occur without the individuals awareness after the fact and are sometimes identified by room or hall mates.   

Circadian Rhythm Disorders 
These are disorders that appear as a disruption of the normal sleep cycle, and can include having a non-24 hour sleep wake cycle, jet lag, and delayed or advanced sleep phase syndrome. Delayed sleep phase syndrome is more common in the college population and consists of difficulty waking up early in the morning and a tendency to stay up late at night.

Symptoms much like jet lag are common in people who study late at night. Because these people's study schedules are at odds with typical sleep-regulating cues like sunlight, they often become very tired while studying and often have difficulty with concentration and memory during those hours.  As a result, they may be affected by insomnia or other problems when they try to sleep. 

Sleep Cycle Problems

The consequences of disrupting your sleep cycle vary from person to person but in general can cause some profound effects. You may have a sleep cycle problem if :

You consistently do not get enough sleep, or the sleep you do get is not restful.

You struggle to stay awake while driving.

You have trouble staying awake when doing something passive, such as studying.

You have problems concentrating at work or school.

Friends, or family members tell you that you are often sleepy.

You begin to respond to things slowly.

You have trouble remembering things or have difficulty in controlling your emotions.

You feel the need to nap several times a day.


Alterations to the sleep cycle often consist of one or more situations.  Students traveling for a job or coop interview may find their sleep cycle disrupted by jet-lag.  More commonly, students are affected by their attempts to do more each day or by their attempts to overcome poor time management or procrastination.  These attempts might include eliminating certain activities like exercise or cutting back on their sleep time, hoping to catch up the next day or ultimately skipping the sleep cycle and "pulling an all-nighter".  Unfortunately, many students underestimate the impact of sleep cycle disruptions.  In addition to the physical symptoms listed above, recent research has begun to focus on how sleep cycle disruption can reduce academic performance. 


Lets consider the potential impact of a 2 hour disruption in the sleep cycle of a student who normally sleeps between 12:00am and 8:00am.  If this student goes to sleep at 2:00am and still wakes up at 8:00 they are sleep deprived - to compensate for that loss they may need as much as 4 hours of extra sleep the next day.  In addition to being affected by some of the physical symptoms, recent research has emphasized how this seemingly insignificant 2 hour loss affects academic performance.


Sleep loss and the learning process

 Because of problems with time management, procrastination, or work overload, students are often in a position of trying to study or learn new material the night before a test.  In many cases sleep is sacrificed in the hope of getting ready for an exam.  Several recent studies have clearly demonstrated that loss of REM sleep creates a dramatic reduction in the retention of recently learned information.  So if the sleep cycle is reduced by as little as 2 hours, then much of what might have been read or studied earlier that night is lost.  As a result, learning efficiency is reduced and grades are negatively affected.  Unfortunately, most students are unaware of the impact of lost sleep and as a result they tend to look for external explanations for their academic problems.  By looking for external explanations i.e. 'the test was too hard' other factors such as poor time management or poor sleep hygiene are ignored and often continue to cause academic problems. 


Related sleep factors

While seemingly a good short-term solution, the use of sleeping pills can also negatively affect the sleep cycle.  Other factors can influence the sleep cycle: disorders such as depression can create sleep disturbance and constant worry can create sleep problems as well.  Sleep apnea is a physical disorder that may influence the quality of your sleep. Recent research has shown that excessive time on-line often impacts sleep schedules as does substance abuse.


Good Sleep Hygiene

Being a good sleeper involves several factors.  For example, maintaining a relatively consistent sleep schedule is one of the most important factors for good sleep.  Going to bed at 2:00am, when you normally sleep at 12:00, creates a disruption in the sleep pattern for the following night, and often leads to attempts to 'make up' for lost sleep i.e. napping.  Another factor of good sleep hygiene is the avoidance of heavy meals just before bedtime.  Also, avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine for 6-8 hours before going to sleep.

Regular exercise is helpful, but avoid any high level activities for a couple of hours before bedtime. 

The twelve principles of sleep hygiene

  1. Get the right amount of sleep.
    Each person needs a certain amount of sleep. Studies show that most of us need between seven and eight hours of sleep a night, and that sleep becomes deeper and more continuous when we sleep in one relatively continuous period of time. Naps can take away from nighttime sleep.
  1. Maintain a regular schedule.
    It's important to maintain a regular bedtime and wake time seven days a week...this means weekends too!. Get up at the same time each morning, even if you had a bad nightÂ's sleep the night before. Experience shows that it may take several nights of bad sleep for the body to begin to achieve good and regular sleep, so donÂ't become frustrated!
  2. Sleep at night.
    Figure out the time that you need to awaken; for most people, this means the earliest time you need to be up for class. From that time, count back the number of hours you need to sleep, add 30 minutes, and you have your bedtime. For example, let's say the earliest time you need to be up for your 8:00 Calculus class is 6:30. If you need seven hours of sleep a night, and add on another 30 minutes, you'd need to go to bed at 11:00.
  3. Avoid alcohol, especially in the evenings.
    Many people try to drink alcohol to help them sleep. While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it will actually have the opposite effect and wake you up later in the night. Furthermore, with continued drinking, the sleep-inducing effect disappears.
  4. Avoid caffeine after lunch.
    Too much caffeine, particularly late in the day, will keep you up during the night. Therefore, it's recommended that you avoid drinking caffeine after noon and limit your caffeine intake to no more than two cups of coffee or soda a day. Avoid eating a lot of chocolate, too.
  5. Avoid nicotine in the evenings and during the night.
    Smoking relaxes you, right? Well, remember, it's also a stimulant and, like coffee, will make it harder for you to fall asleep and shorten the time you will sleep during the night.
  6. Exercise any time before dinnertime.
    Exercise is definitely good for you and can actually promote deep sleep. However, exercise too close to bedtime is invigorating and can make it harder to fall asleep. Therefore, avoid exercise within three to four hours of bedtime.
  7. Make your sleep environment comfortable and sleep-inducing.
    Make sure you have a comfortable bed and a bedroom that's conducive to sleep. Block out unnecessary light, wear earplugs to reduce the effect of noise around you, and make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable.
  8. Establish a bedtime ritual.
    Just before bedtime is not the right time to pay bills, begin a mystery novel, or think about the stresses in your life. A wind-down period is essential for a relaxing bedtime routine. Earlier in the evening, make a list of ways you might begin to resolve your problems so you aren't worrying about them at night.
  9. Reserve the bed for sleeping only.
    Spending excessive amounts of time in bed doing other tasks weakens the association between sleep and the bed. Eliminate bedtime activities that have nothing to do with sleep.
  10. Sleep when you are sleepy; otherwise, get out of bed.
    If you're not asleep after 15 to 20 minutes of lying in bed, get up and engage in some sedentary activity, such as reading or watching TV, until you begin to feel sleepy. At that point, return to bed.
  11. Keep in mind that sleep helps the learning process.
    According to research, sleep helps secure memories and aids in at least some types of learning. Students who study hard all week and party on the weekends may lose a lot of what they learned. Sleep deprivation on critical nights after learning may cause a 30% loss.



Substance Abuse

Do I Have a Problem With Alcohol or Drugs?

Take a look at the following symptoms and consider whether or not any apply to you:

  • I sometimes forget or deny things that happen when I was intoxicated or high on drugs.
  • My drinking or drug use sometimes causes problems with school, work or my relationships
  • I sometimes set limits or make promises to others about how much I will drink or use drugs and then do not follow through.
  • I sometimes lie about or try to hide the frequency and/or amount of my drinking or drug use.
  • I sometimes behave very differently when intoxicated or high on drugs than when sober or clean, almost as if I'm a different person.
  • I have a very high tolerance − I can drink a lot without feeling highly intoxicated.
  • I sometimes feel guilty, embarrassed, or remorseful about things I said or did while intoxicated or high on drugs.
  • I occasionally drink or use drugs in the morning or early in the day to treat a hangover or to avoid the shakes or other withdrawal symptoms.

If you answered "yes" to one or more of these problems, then a further evaluation might be helpful.


Student Resources

Helpful Sites

Group Counseling

The counseling center offers groups as needed by the students.  Currently, we have been running a social anxiety group for the last several years.  This group is focused on helping students become more comfortable in social situations and to develop the social skills needed on a college campus.

The counseling center has partnered with NAMI to provide virtual Peer Support Groups for RPI students who have experienced symptoms of a mental health condition. The groups are facilitated by trained students who have themselves struggled with mental health. By sharing your experiences in a safe and confidential setting, you can gain hope and feel a sense of connection. Details found here.

Managing Stress

Stress and Rensselaer Students

Stress is often defined as the way that we respond to changes in our lives. It is the way our bodies react physically, emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally. Some stressful events will result in positive stress, while other stressful events can result in distress.

Each year, Rensselaer students participate in the National College Health Assessment (NCHA).  Based on the most recent survey response, of Rensselaer students, 45% report greater than average, or very high levels of stress during the academic year.

Greatest sources of stress for students (% of students affected)
Academics 37%
Intimate relationships 24.2%
Finances 20.3%
Career-related concerns 17.5%
Sleep difficulties 17%



What does stress look like?

Stress looks different for different people.  Some experience more emotional symptoms, while others experience more physical symptoms.  If you notice yourself affected by many on these lists, further evaluation of the causes of stress for you may be helpful.

Common Physical Symptoms

  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Tension
  • Appetite changes
  • Muscle aches
  • Digestive upset

Emotional Symptoms

  • Negativity
  • Forgetfulness
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Resentfulness

How can you help yourself manage stress?

Relaxation training can provide a great deal of relief from stress.  Listening to relaxation exercises before exams and before bedtime can make it easier to relax at those times.


Biofeedback is the process of helping you to become more aware of the bodily functions that are affected by stress: primarily heart rate and breathing.  Some of the staff are trained in biofeedback and may suggest the use of this strategy to help you become more aware of these autonomic functions.

Meditation involves the emptying of the mind of thoughts, or the concentration of the mind on one thing, in order to aid in relaxation

Identifying unrelieved stress and being aware of its effect on our lives is not sufficient for reducing its harmful effects. Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many possibilities for its management. However, all require effort toward change: changing the source of stress and/or changing your reaction to it. How do you proceed?

Identify possible sources of stress and distress.  There are 7 situations/attitudes that commonly increase our stress:

  1. AN UNRESOLVED RELATIONSHIP.  Wondering whether it is right, or whether the partner will leave, puts a tremendous burden on you emotionally and physically.  It can take precedence over everything else in your life.  You will not be able to eliminate the stress until there is some resolution.  Therefore, there are two alternatives: (1) If you are going to end the relationship, do it now, rather than thinking about it for years; and (2) If you want it to work then try to make it beautiful and stop wondering about the future over which you have no control                 
  2. INABILITY TO RELAX.  Always  being on the go and going from one task to another without stopping to quiet the mind and relax the body builds up a deadly stress momentum.  Being busy does not build stress:  constant pushing does.
  3. EXPLOSIVENESS AND ANGER.  While it is better to express your feelings than to bottle them up, if you consistently choose anger and behave in an explosive fashion, then it will be accompanied by the stress that goes with expending emotions constantly.
  4. PERFECTIONISM.  You will always be disappointed since no one can be perfect.  The person who is unable to handle failure is filled with stress and self-rejection.  One cannot learn unless he is willing to fail and be able to explore the unknown.
  5. EXCESSIVE COMPETITION.  While healthy competition is exciting, constant competition adds pressure which will ultimately mean distress to you and those around you by making constant comparisons and putting unnecessary pressure on yourself and others.  Lack of self-importance and lack of power usually results from having accepted a role and having taught those around you to treat you the way they do.  Demand to be heard or you will always feel an inner contempt which will keep you from overcoming stress.
  6. RIGIDITY.   Try to be flexible and you will find yourself more relaxed.  Rigid personalities tend to look for something to be upset about and find themselves arguing a great deal.  One places a tremendous burden on himself unless he is able to accept another opinion or admit error.
  7. IMPATIENCE.  If one is impatient with others, he generally imposes the same standards on himself and thus does not allow himself any peace.  If you are impatient and expect others to get things done quickly, you probably become frequently concerned about how poorly they perform.  Lack of humor and enthusiasm and a sour attitude breed stress. 
  • Become aware of your stressors and your emotional and physical reactions.
    • Notice your distress. Don't ignore it. Don't gloss over your problems.
    • Determine what events distress you. What are you telling yourself about meaning of these events?
    • Determine how your body responds to the stress. Do you become nervous or physically upset? If so, in what specific ways?
  • Recognize what you can change.
    • Can you change your stressors by avoiding or eliminating them completely?
    • Can you reduce their intensity (manage them over a period of time instead of on a daily or weekly basis)?
    • Can you shorten your exposure to stress (take a break, leave the physical premises)?
    • Can you devote the time and energy necessary to making a change (goal setting, time management techniques, and delayed gratification strategies may be helpful here)?
  • Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to stress.
    • The stress reaction is triggered by your perception of danger...physical danger and/or emotional danger. Are you viewing your stressors in exaggerated terms and/or taking a difficult situation and making it a disaster?
    • Are you expecting to please everyone?
    • Are you overreacting and viewing things as absolutely critical and urgent? Do you feel you must always prevail in every situation?
    • Work at adopting more moderate views; try to see the stress as something you can cope with rather than something that overpowers you.
    • Try to temper your excess emotions. Put the situation in perspective. Do not labor on the negative aspects and the "what if's."
  • Learn to moderate your physical reactions to stress.
    • Slow, deep breathing will bring your heart rate and respiration back to normal.
    • Relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension. Electronic biofeedback can help you gain voluntary control over such things as muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure.
    • Medications, when prescribed by a physician, can help in the short term in moderating your physical reactions. However, they alone are not the answer.
    • Learning to moderate these reactions on your own is a preferable long-term solution.
  • Build your physical reserves.
    • Exercise for cardiovascular fitness three to four times a week (moderate, prolonged rhythmic exercise is best, such as walking, swimming, cycling, or jogging).
    • Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals.
    • Maintain your weight as close to ideal as possible.
    • Avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine, and other stimulants.
    • Mix leisure with work. Take breaks and get away when you can.
    • Get enough sleep. Be as consistent with your sleep schedule as possible.
  • Maintain your emotional reserves.
    • Develop some mutually supportive friendships/relationships.
    • Pursue realistic goals which are meaningful to you, rather than goals others have for you that you do not share.
    • Expect some frustrations, failures, and sorrows.
    • Always be kind and gentle with yourself--be a friend to yourself. 

On-line Resources

These relaxation exercises can help to reduce stress.  They vary in style and duration.

Traumatic Events

Dealing with the stress of traumatic events

Many people experience extreme reactions to a traumatic event. At this time, intense feelings may be stimulated. They can be associated with current events, past memories and associations, as well as thoughts of the future. Individuals may experience a range of reactions either due to internal conflicts and confusions, or due to this event or such events in general. This can create stress. Below are some of the stresses you might experience and some ideas on how to manage stress.

Stress Reactions

After a traumatic event, you may experience a variety of normal reactions to stress which may include:

Physical Reactions

  • Fatigue
  • Nightmares
  • Hyperactivity
  • Startle reactions
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Self medication-substance abuse
  • Headaches
  • Health problems: changes in appetite, tense muscles, and digestive problems.

Cognitive Reactions

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory disturbance
  • Difficulty problem solving
  • Inability to attach importance to anything else
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Intrusive thoughts

Emotional Reactions

  • Fear
  • Emotional numbing
  • Lack of emotion
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Helplessness
  • Depression
  • Loss of control

These are all normal reactions and, although painful, are parts of the healing process. There is not a lot anyone can do to make you not experience these uncomfortable feelings, but there are things you can do to feel more whole.


  1. Counter shock by:
  • Recognizing that you are normal and having normal reactions — don't label yourself as crazy.
  • Within the first 24-48 hours, periods of strenuous physical exercise alternated with relaxation will alleviate some of the intense reactions.
  • Deliberately limit the time you watch T.V. news of the event.
  • Structure your time — keep busy.
  • Talk to people — talking is the most healing medicine.
  • Be aware of numbing the pain with overuse of drugs or alcohol. You don't need to complicate this with a substance abuse problem.
  • Reach out — people do care.
  • Keep your life as normal as possible.
  • Spend time with others.
  • Help your co-workers and fellow students as much as possible by sharing feelings and checking out how they are doing.
  • Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others.
  • Keep a journal. Write your way through those sleepless hours.
  • Do things that feel good to you.
  • The Nutrition Almanac recommends supplementing your diet with Vitamin C, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Calcium, and Magnesium.
  • Don't make any big life changes.

 Managing your everyday stress.

  • Take care of yourself — Balance your lifestyle, sleep and eat regularly, exercise, limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption; make sure to play in some way every day.
  • Find some people who will support you — talk about things that interest you, listen to your friends, laugh with people, and ask for help when you need it.
  • Slow down internally — Notice what you say to yourself, do one thing at a time, concentrate on the present (e.g., savor your food, notice the sun, really listen), and breathe.
  • Alter your daily schedule — Start each day in a leisurely manner rather than rushing. Find a time of day to totally relax.
  • Assess your work/study habits — Shed events, do less rather than more in a period of time, prioritize activities, schedule yourself including time for relaxing yourself, prepare more for tests and practice relaxation just before exams.

 Making daily decisions will give you a feeling of control over your life, which counteracts feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

  • Decide what to wear each day.
  • Decide what to eat and when to eat.
  • Decide how to spend your time.
  • Answer even simple questions with a decision rather than "I don't care" or "whatever you want."

Free On-line Mental Health Screenings

Online Mental Health Screening

Although not intended to give a definite diagnosis, screening tools for mental health can increase self-understanding and improve well-being. Below is a link to anonymous, online screens for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and alcohol use issues.  This section also provides helpful resources to assist you in your striving for wellness.

Take the Online Mental Health Screening


Patient’s Rights

Patient’s Bill of Rights

As a student accessing treatment from the Student Health Services department you have the right, consistent with the law, to:

  1. Understand and use these rights. If for any reason, you do not understand or you need help, Rensselaer will provide assistance, including an interpreter.
  2. Receive treatment without discrimination as to age, race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national or ethnic origin, veteran status, marital status or disability.
  3. Receive considerate and respectful care in a clean and safe environment free of unnecessary restraints.
  4. Be seen by the practitioner of your choice if he/she has scheduled time available.
  5. Change practitioners without question or retaliation.
  6. Be informed of the name and position of the health care provider who treats you.
  7. Know the names, positions, and functions of any staff involved in your care and refuse their treatment, examination or observation.
  8. Receive complete information, as far as is known, about your diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.
  9. Receive all the information that you need to give informed consent for any proposed procedure or treatment. This information shall include the possible risks and benefits of the procedure or treatment.
  10. Refuse treatment and be told what effect this may have on your health.
  11. Refuse to take in part in research. In deciding whether or not to participate, you have the right to a full explanation.
  12. Privacy while in the office and confidentiality, within the law, of all information and records regarding your care.
  13. Participate in all decisions about your treatment.
  14. Provide an advanced directive.
  15. Review your medical record, as provided by law, without charge and obtain a copy of your medical record for which the Student Health Center can charge a reasonable fee. You cannot be denied a copy solely because you cannot afford to pay.
  16. Complain without fear of reprisals about the care and services you are receiving and to have the Student Medical Services respond to you and if you request it, a written response. Complaints, suggestions or compliments may be directed to the Patient Advocate (, the Executive Director (, or the Vice President for Student Life (

Your Responsibilities as a Patient

  1. You have a responsibility to be courteous to staff and other patients. People accompanying you share this responsibility with you.
  2. You have the responsibility to observe the rules of the Institute -- especially the rules of safety.
  3. You have the responsibility to keep your appointments and be on time or to call and reschedule or cancel them so another can use the time.
  4. You have the responsibility to give a complete and accurate medical history, and to promptly report any changes or additions.
  5. You have the responsibility to follow the mutually agreed upon prescribed course of your treatment, and to inform your doctor, nurse or other health care provider of any improvements or deteriorations in your health related to this course of treatment.
  6. You have the responsibility to pay your bills promptly; to provide the necessary insurance information for processing them, and to ask any questions you have about them as soon as possible.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Capital Region

NAMI holds a weekly Peer-led support group for any adult who has experienced symptoms of a mental health condition.  These meetings are held every Tuesday at 5:00 pm EST virtually through Zoom Meeting due to the Coronavirus social distancing conditions.  For family/friends who have a loved one who has experienced symptoms of a mental health condition, NAMI offers a peer-led Family Support Group which is held every Thursday at 5:30pm EST virtually through Zoom Meeting. For more information:

NAMI Capital Region Twitter

NAMI Capital Region Facebook