Scope of UCC Clinical Services and Brief Therapy

The Binghamton University Counseling Center (UCC) is committed to promoting student psychological well-being so that students may fully and effectively engage in all the opportunities available at the University. The UCC provides assessment, counseling, referrals, and related services to students in their pursuit of personal and academic growth, including the strengthening of their emotional, intellectual, behavioral, cultural and spiritual development.

Assessment process

The UCC invites students to make an initial consultative appointment with one of our counselors to discuss their concerns. This conversation between the counselor and the student generally involves a discussion of the student's current difficulties, a review of treatment options, and recommendations to assist the student in obtaining the appropriate services. Recommendations may include receiving services at the UCC (individual or group therapy), which is based on the brief therapy model, connecting to other campus resources, facilitating ongoing therapy with home providers in a private Skype facility, or providing referrals to off-campus providers.

Services within the Counseling Center

Individual counseling

In order to meet significant student demand for service and use resources most effectively, the UCC utilizes a brief therapy model. Brief therapy is short-term and focused on helping students to resolve or effectively manage a specific problem or challenge, or to make a particular desired change. The therapy is typically solution-oriented, and sessions are geared towards direct and active intervention to help clients achieve specific goals. The frequency of sessions may be weekly at first, but more often are every other week.

Group counseling

In addition to individual counseling, group counseling can provide unique benefits including learning with and from peers, receiving feedback and support from peers in a counselor-facilitated setting, and learning specific skills in a group environment. The UCC has many group offers that are quite popular and effective. The menu of group topics and types offered at the UCC is dynamic and evolving. In addition to being the best treatment option for many presenting problems, group counseling may allow a student to receive more long-term services than would be available through individual therapy.

Same-day urgent counseling

Same-day urgent sessions are generally available for all students. These urgent meeting times are in the afternoon between 1 and 4 p.m. For students with repeated use of urgent services, there may be discussion about referral to alternate or additional resources.

Some of the concerns that are commonly addressed in brief therapy at the UCC are:

  • Personal Concerns: stress, anger, loneliness, guilt, grief
  • Relationship Concerns: Romantic difficulties, interpersonal conflicts, family problems
  • Developmental Concerns: Adjustment to college, life transitions, identity (e.g., personal, cultural, sexual orientation, gender identity)
  • Mild to moderate mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, as appropriate to brief therapy
  • Substance Use: Concerns related to mild or moderate alcohol or other drug use/abuse
  • Academic Concerns: Performance anxiety, perfectionism, or mental health issues that affect academic difficulties
  • Trauma or Interpersonal Violence: Assessment, stabilization and treatment within a brief therapy model

Referral to community resources

The UCC brief therapy treatment approach is time-limited due to the natural limits of resources. In keeping with the brief therapy model at the UCC, students whose needs require long-term and/or intensive support will generally be referred to community resources for ongoing treatment. Similarly, students whose needs require a particular type of expertise that is not available in the UCC are also referred to community resources.

During periods of high demand for service, our providers may no longer have openings for new clients, and in that situation the UCC may keep a limited wait list based on anticipated availability in a reasonable time frame; however, in an effort to avoid a delay in care, we may help students to connect with community providers rather than place them on a substantial waitlist.

In cases where a student's ongoing needs warrant a referral to community resources, the UCC may provide some interim support to the students as they are connecting to the appropriate community resources. The UCC may provide referrals during or after the initial assessment meeting, or as these factors become more apparent during the course of services. Same-day urgent appointments are also available to students as the need arises.

Some of the concerns that are commonly addressed through referral to services outside of the UCC include:

A need for intensive, long-term or open-ended therapy. Possible indicators for longer term or more intensive therapy include:

  • Recent or multiple psychiatric hospitalizations
  • Chronic thoughts of suicide, frequent self-injury behaviors, or history of repeated suicide attempts
  • Evidence or risk of progressive deterioration in mental or emotional functioning that requires intensive intervention

A need for specialized services not available through the UCC, including but not limited to:

  • Presence of significant drug or alcohol problems such as substance dependence and/or past failed treatments
  • Need for drug testing
  • Presence of severe or long-standing eating disorder symptoms
  • Request for formal psychological assessment (e.g., ADHD testing)
  • Request for psychological evaluation for the purpose of employment clearance or other non-academic purposes
  • Request for services to fulfill students' court-mandated assessment or treatment requirements

The general guidelines listed above are only intended to serve as a guide to assist treatment decisions. The nature and complexity of presenting concerns and the broader context are considered in making the appropriate treatment recommendations(s). Students are evaluated individually and the professional judgment of the mental health providers(s) will determine the treatment recommendation in a particular case.

Brief Therapy

What is Brief Therapy?

Brief Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is short-term in nature and typically focuses on solutions rather than problems. In doing so, the counselor utilizes a collaborative relationship between the counselor and client. The aim is to emphasize students' strengths and to help them to work actively towards well-defined goals. Brief Therapy is often about bringing successes into the client's awareness which tends to increase hopefulness.

Why is it a good approach?

Many clients find that Brief Therapy helps to keep the meetings focused and productive. The time-limited nature of counseling can encourage the client and therapist to work together effectively and efficiently. Furthermore, brief therapy has been shown to be suitable for a wide variety of clients and problems, such as anxiety, depression, grief, relationship issues, stress, and lifestyle changes.

What research supports it?

Research has shown that various forms of time-limited therapy yield very good results. For example, a comprehensive study on solution-focused brief therapy found that it had a positive effect in less time and satisfied the client's need for autonomy more than other forms of psychotherapy (Stams, et al., 2006 as cited in Bannick, 2007).

When and why did the UCC change to brief therapy?

We adopted the brief therapy model of care at the UCC in the spring 2016 semester in order to reallocate counseling services by spreading resources in the most beneficial way, so that we can serve more students with quicker access. As a result, we have been able to reduce our wait times to initial appointments, as well as reduce the wait for ongoing counseling appointments.

How common is it?

Brief counseling is widely used in the mental health field and has become the most preferred mode of individual service delivery nationally in college counseling (Cooper & Archer, 1999).

What if a student needs treatment beyond Brief Therapy?

As described above, brief therapy is appropriate in many circumstances. However, for students who may benefit from longer-term, more frequent, or more specialized counseling, the UCC works to coordinate access to resources in the local off-campus community. For more information about the UCC's Scope of Service, see above. Consideration may be given about a student's resources in deciding whether, when, and where to refer to off-campus services. The UCC has an excellent database of community agencies and individual providers, so that a referral can be individualized to the student's insurance, location, type of issue, or other criteria.

How to get the most out of it?

To get the most out of a brief therapy experience, clients are encouraged to think about their goals, about how they would like things to be different. Clients are also encouraged to be willing to engage in work. With the help of the counselor, clients will explore ways that will bring them within reach of their goals. This also involves a willingness to devote energy to out-of-session work that the counselor may recommend.


Bannink, F.P. (2007). Solution-focused brief therapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 37(2), 87-94.

Cooper, S & Archer, J. (1999) Brief therapy in college counseling and mental health. Journal of American College Health, 48(1), 21-29.

Stams, G.J., Dekovic, M., Buist, K., & de Vries, L. (2006). Effectiviteit van oplossingsgerichte korte therapie; een meta-analyse (Efficiency of solution-focused brief therapy: a meta-analysis). Gedragstherapie (Behavior Therapy), 39(2), 81-94