Getting Started at CAMHS

Woman on sofa using laptop.

CAMHS Overview

Your first contact with CAMHS typically begins with an initial 20-minute phone consult you make on the patient portal.  This is so we can learn about your concerns and make recommendations for the best next steps.  It's best to schedule a consultation as soon as possible if you are considering counseling services; as the semester progresses the amount of wait time for an Initial Consultation may increase.  Remember, if you need support very quickly, mental health urgent care is always available by calling (617) 495-2042.

In general, CAMHS services involve the following:  

  • Short-term Counseling with our staff of psychologists, social workers, and licensed mental health professionals 
  • Medical Prescribers include psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and medical residents who conduct psychopharmacology evaluations and offer prescription management
  • Outside Referrals for longer-term counseling with providers and experts in the surrounding communities 
  • Virtual Workshops to learn coping skills/psychoeducation and Support Groups to address a variety of mental health concerns and topics (see CAMHS calendar)
  • Urgent Care and limited same day appointments during office hours (8am to 6pm Monday through Thursday and 8am to 5pm Friday)
  • CAMHS Cares 24/7 Student Mental Health Support Line is always available for students to speak with a mental health provider by selecting the appropriate prompt when you call 617-495-2042

A Hybrid Model: Due to the safety protocols in place since the pandemic, CAMHS services are available in-person and via telemedicine appointments (phone/Zoom). If you have questions you can call CAMHS during weekday office hours (8am to 6pm Monday through Thursday and 8am to 5pm Friday) to speak with our staff at 617-495-2042.


Getting Started at CAMHS FAQs

How do I make an initial phone consult?

If you are a new student or have not been seen at CAMHS in 12 months, you can make an appointment for an initial phone consult through the patient portal

It's best to schedule a consultation as soon as possible if you are considering counseling services; as the semester progresses the amount of wait time for an initial consultation may increase. Remember, if you need support very quickly, urgent care is always available.

Sign on to the patient portal and find a CAMHS provider time slot that works with your schedule. If you want to speak with a specific clinician, you can schedule with them based on availability. Once you have chosen an initial consult date and time, please fill out the online questionnaire. This gives the clinician more information about your needs so they can prepare for the conversation. 

Phone consultations are offered every day throughout the week during office hours (8am to 6pm Monday through Thursday and 8am to 5pm Friday). If you have difficulty finding a time that fits your schedule, please call the office at (617) 495-2042. 

Tips for a successful consult:

  • Make sure that you can receive blocked or private phone calls.  Some phone block these calls automatically.
  • Make sure to answer block, unknown or private calls around the time of your appointment because it could be a CAMHS staff trying to reach you.
  • If you miss the phone call from a clinician you will need to reschedule on the HUHS portal.
  • Make sure you  are in a location where you can speak freely about your concerns.

These appointments are brief (20 minutes), so you want to utilize the time you have.  Clinicians will usually try your phone number twice in the first 5 minutes.

What happens during the initial consultation?

An initial consult is a 20-minute call with a clinician to help figure out your needs. The clinician will offer useful coping skills and will make recommendations for additional services both within and outside of CAMHS. All of our clinicians are trained and experienced at addressing student mental health concerns. 

It's best to schedule a consultation as soon as possible if you are considering counseling services; as the semester progresses the amount of wait time for an initial consultation may increase. Remember, if you need support very quickly, urgent care is always available.

The clinician will ask a few questions: 

  • Why are you seeking care now? 
  • Have you noticed a change in your mood, feelings of worry and anxiety, self-esteem, sleeping, eating, use of alcohol and other substances, thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself in any way, thoughts of wanting to hurt others, or any medical concerns? 
  • Can you describe any previous counseling experiences? 
  • What support system do you have here at Harvard? 
  • Can you describe your current coping and self-care routine? 

The answer to these questions gives the clinician a clear understanding of what your concerns are in order to make the best recommendations for you. 

Recommendations may include: 

  • An immediate appointment because of the urgency of your concerns. 
  • Coordinating a clinical intake appointment with one of our counselors and/or several follow-up sessions.  
  • Coordinating a medical intake appointment with one of our psychiatrists or nurse practitioners to address possible medication to address distress. 
  • Recommending one of our virtual groups or workshops. 
  • Facilitating referrals to services from a clinician in the local community (via ThrivingCampus or with guidance from our community referral coordinator). 
  • Referring you to the Academic Resource Center

Intake appointments with CAMHS clinicians are made as soon as possible based on your presenting concerns, your scheduling availability, and the availability of the clinician that is recommended for you. 

What happens during a counseling session?

The CAMHS counseling experience typically begins with an intake session. A counselor will ask a series of questions to learn more about the concerns that bring you to CAMHS, learn about who you are, and ask about any previous mental health history to help formulate a treatment plan. An intake session is followed by one or more counseling sessions, typically 2-3 weeks apart or monthly. The number of sessions is determined based on your needs, schedule, and your counselor’s recommendation. The counseling sessions are confidential and take approximately 45-minutes. Intakes and follow-up counseling sessions are in-person. Depending on certain circumstances some sessions can be conducted via secure Zoom video conferencing.

Our clinicians can offer coping skills and support to help with a variety of concerns, including stress, adjustment to college, anxiety, depression, mood swings, difficulties with focus and concentration, eating concerns, loneliness and isolation, grief, relationship problems, sexuality, social/racial/cultural concerns, traumatic experience, managing a chronic health condition, addictive behaviors, perfectionism, procrastination, and concerns about uncertainty, the future, and career. 

Call us or schedule an initial consult even if you are not sure if we can help – we will connect you with the right support.  We take a compassionate approach to helping you learn coping skills and improve your overall wellbeing at Harvard. 

You may also take the anonymous mental health screener that may help you decide whether you’d like to try counseling or other CAMHS resources.

Many people seek counseling for personal growth and/or because they need help managing the challenges in life. Some students worry that seeking help means they are "crazy," “weak,” or “incompetent.” Seeking help from a licensed professional is a way to work through a personal challenge. Counseling is available because we know that many students go through difficult times while they are here. Because CAMHS offers a short-term model of counseling to address immediate concerns, you may decide that having a longer-term therapist in the community will be helpful. We can help you determine that option. We are here for you.

What is urgent care?

In-person Urgent Care appointments are available in CAMHS on business days (8am to 6pm Monday through Thursday and 8am to 5pm Friday) for significant mental health issues, urgent distress, or crisis situations.  Please call 617-495-2042 to schedule an urgent care visit, or to speak first with a CAMHS Cares clinician who is available 24/7 if you are unsure of whether an urgent care visit is warranted.

What Urgent Care is:

In a CAMHS Urgent Care appointment a student and clinician will focus on reducing immediate distress and increasing problem-solving while identifying next steps and resources to enhance mental health and wellbeing.  This might include:

  • Scheduling more appointments to begin counseling or continue therapy,
  • Making an appointment with a CAMHS prescriber to assess for medication,
  • Accessing CAMHS workshops or groups or other resources on campus,
  • Widening one's support system in stressful situations, or, in rare situations,
  • Transferring to a hospital if a higher level of care is necessary.

What Urgent Care is not: 

  • Urgent Care appointments are not "drop-in appointments" nor are they therapy appointments.  
  • They are also not meant for discussing an accommodation request around a disability, nor for requesting documentation from a clinician.  
  • We will not initiate a non-urgent prescription (such as ADHD medications) in an Urgent Care visit.  It's helpful to plan ahead before each semester begins.

Please remember to call 617-495-2042 first to schedule an Urgent Care appointment before coming to CAMHS, so that we may help you reduce time spent in our waiting room and provide support to you as expeditiously as possible.

What if I need to refill a prescription from home?

If you are currently taking medication and would like to transfer your care/medication management to CAMHS, it is your responsibility to coordinate a plan with your recent provider to ensure that you have sufficient quantity to last until your next appointment. Additionally, we ask that your most recent provider sends a brief treatment summary with a list of your current medications, doses, and when they were most recently prescribed. Please make an initial consultation appointment well in advance if you are transferring care.

CAMHS is here for you.

Man walking on Harvard campus

Learn About Our Services

Counseling, Workshops, Groups, and more

Services are a hybrid model of in-person and telemedicine.