Student Wellness Services  /  Counseling  /  What to Expect

What to Expect

When you call or visit Counseling Services, you'll be greeted by our friendly front office staff. You'll be asked to confirm your status as an enrolled Caltech student.

If you are experiencing a crisis or feel the need to be seen on an urgent (same-day) basis, please inform the receptionist immediately.

Non-crisis initial appointments will be scheduled within 1-3 days with a clinician who has availability that matches yours. Our goal is to see each student seeking services promptly - this allows Counseling Services staff to make an initial assessment of your needs and make recommendations for appropriate services and resources.

Please come in 15 minutes before your scheduled time so you can complete paperwork, which includes a consent form, privacy practices, and information that will help us address your concerns most effectively. Arriving early for your appointment will allow the initial appointment to start on time and will provide you with ample time for discussing concerns with your provider.

Your initial appointment will last 25-30 minutes. This visit is focused on identifying the primary reason you are seeking counseling services, and assess for any safety concerns or risk factors. The clinician will also ask you a series of questions that will help inform next steps. You will have the opportunity to talk about any immediate issues that could benefit from problem-solving and strategies to manage distress. At the conclusion of your initial visit, you may be referred to one of our groups or workshops, scheduled for an intake appointment, or referred to the consulting psychiatrist, a community provider, or other resource that will be helpful to you.

Groups and Workshops

Counseling Services offers a range of psychoeducational workshops and groups that provide emotional regulation skills, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, stress management, social confidence skills, and action-based information on a range of issues that impact Caltech students. Your clinician may recommend that you attend one or more groups or workshops after your initial appointment. Groups are often the preferred treatment modality for common issues students face, and may be the primary recommendation or augment individual therapy. Many students are unsure, at first, about whether a group or workshop will meet their needs. Please discuss any concerns you have with your clinician to best address any worries or reservations - most students find that their experiences in workshops or groups are helpful and meet their needs for skill development, as well as help them connect meaningfully with others who are experiencing the same kinds of concerns. Click here for a list of our current groups and workshops.

Intake Appointments

If you are unable to attend your intake appointment, please call to cancel your appointment at least 4 hours before your scheduled time, to ensure we are able to accommodate another student.

If your clinician determines that individual therapy is appropriate, you will be scheduled for the next available intake appointment that matches with your schedule. This appointment will last 45-50 minutes, and is designed to help your clinician learn more about your personal and psychological history, the multiple dimensions of your identity, family and developmental factors, and the range of issues that contribute to your desire for counseling. It's important to talk openly with your clinician about your goals, needs, and all of the concerns you are hoping to address in therapy. At the conclusion of your intake appointment, your clinician will talk with you about developing a treatment plan to address your needs.

Brief Therapy and Community Referrals

Counseling Services works, in general, within a brief-therapy framework. The average number of sessions attended for Counseling Services clients is 8; some students feel their needs are addressed in 1 or 2 appointments, and others are seen for longer than the average. We don't have specific session limits, which allows us to be flexible and tailor our treatment plans to the needs of students. If a student needs or desires ongoing, open-ended, or specialized treatment, we typically refer students to trusted clinicians within the community who can offer these services. The decision to refer to a community provider is based on a number of factors and is considered very carefully. We ask that each student be open to the recommendations of their treating clinician and engage in frank discussion about what will best meet the student's therapeutic goals. While the convenience of on-campus Counseling Services is a consideration, the main factor in developing a treatment plan is identifying the most effective way to meet a student's needs.

A referral to a community provider is a collaborative process. If you have the Caltech Student Health Insurance (United Healthcare Student Resources), Counseling Services may refer to one of many providers who is very familiar with Caltech students, and will tailor the referral to your specific needs. Your clinician will work with you to ensure that a positive connection is made, and that you are satisfied with the referral. If you are a student with alternative insurance coverage, you'll be asked to identify local providers who are covered under your plan and your clinician will help you find a therapist who can meet your needs.


All of the clinicians at the counseling center are licensed professionals. We abide by California laws that protect client confidentiality, and we recognize that you need to feel confident that your information and treatment is treated with privacy and respect. You can find more information about this and answers to other common questions in the FAQs.

Mon - Fri
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
1239 Arden Rd.
Mail Code 1-8
Pasadena, California 91125
Health (626) 395-6393 | Counseling (626) 395-8331
(626) 585-1522