Psychological Services Center

There are a number of laws to protect consumers of health care services and our community. We feel it is important for you to understand how these laws may influence you and the psychological evaluation or therapy you receive here.

What is the PSC?

The PSC provides psychological services to the NIU and northern Illinois area communities. It is the primary training center for graduate students in the clinical psychology program at Northern Illinois University. Most services are performed by advanced graduate students under the direct supervision of a clinical or school psychology faculty member, most of whom are licensed by the state. Services are occasionally provided by a faculty clinician. Our goals are to provide clients with effective services, to provide graduate students with opportunities for professional learning, and to further our knowledge through the study of human behavior.

What services are provided at the PSC?

The primary services offered by the PSC are psychotherapy and psychological evaluation. We work with interpersonal problems, anxiety, depression, academic and adjustment problems, school problems, sexual difficulties, family and marital difficulties, and so forth.

Please note that we typically provide short to medium-term therapy (up to 20 sessions). Although we are open during the summer, we do not expect all of our clients to continue in therapy after mid-May (the end of the spring semester). If you feel that you need long-term therapy, please discuss this matter with your interviewer at the intake and your therapist. Having a pre-established understanding about the length of therapy often helps both client and therapist use the time more effectively.

How do I set up an appointment?

Services are requested by calling the PSC secretary (753-0591) or by coming into the office which is located in the one story circular building in front of the NIU Psychology/Computer Science Building facing Normal Road. Office hours are Monday, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The first appointment is an intake, or a problem assessment session. We ask you to read several forms that describe our procedures and then give us your written permission to proceed. During the first session, your intake worker will ask you about the problems you are experiencing, your current circumstances, and your background. The intake worker will attempt to answer your questions about our services. If we believe that another agency can serve you better, we will provide you with a referral.

What do PSC services cost?

There is no charge for your initial appointment with the intake worker. At that meeting fees will be discussed. Although there are many exceptions, generally the fee for individual, couple, and family therapy is $50.00 per 50 minute session. If a faculty member is doing therapy, the standard fee is $100.00 per therapy hour.

Many people have insurance policies that pay for part or all of therapy. We will help you fill out your first insurance claim. We will also file claims for you if you assign the benefits directly to us.

We do not want to turn away a person seeking therapy because of difficulty affording the standard fee. Therefore, we use a sliding fee scale based on income and number of dependents. Additional fee reductions can be requested for extenuating circumstances. It is also possible that some therapy will be offered for free if a client agrees to be part of a research study or a teaching case study.

You will be given a copy of the fee agreement prior to the start of any charges. You will not be charged for any therapy that occurs prior to this. You will be expected to pay the out-of-pocket amount immediately before or after each session unless you make other arrangements with your therapist. These arrangements are subject to the approval of the PSC director.

Please feel free to raise questions about your fees at any time. If your financial circumstances change, please let your therapist know so that an appropriate fee adjustment can be made.

What if I am an NIU student?

As a service to NIU, we charge no fee for full-time NIU students who participate in our regular individual or group services. Part-time students pay partial fees for these services. All other services are charged according to the usual sliding fee scale. Students are charged for psychological testing, and couple or family therapy. Charges may also be made for reports sent to agencies or educational institutions at the request of the student, and for special therapy programs. NIU students are charged, however, for specialty services in the Anxiety Disorders Service.

How will my therapy be influenced by having a graduate student therapist?

As a training center, we want to assure the quality of both the services we provide to you and the education we provide to our student therapists. All therapy is therefore recorded or observed so that proper supervision can be given. You will be required to sign a consent form which indicates your acceptance of this policy. If this is not acceptable to you, we will assist you in finding help elsewhere. You will be notified anytime that you are being observed directly.

Our students do not provide services until our faculty supervisors feel they have adequate skills. When they begin seeing clients, they are carefully supervised by experienced clinical psychologists. Supervisors listen to or watch the audiotapes or videotapes of sessions, and they retain full professional and legal responsibility for the services provided. Supervision takes place in treatment teams composed of the supervisor, your therapist, and other student therapists in the PSC. This approach is our method for supervising specific cases and training our graduate student therapists in the delivery of mental health services.

At times, your therapist may delay answering some of your questions to confer with the supervisor. In this way, you will get the added benefit of the supervisor's experience.

What happens to the recordings that are made?

Tapes are used by your therapist and the supervisor to plan and improve therapy. Portions of recordings may be played in treatment team meetings to help your therapist learn how best to work with you and help other therapists learn about therapy in general. They are then either taped over for the next session or erased by your therapist on a special piece of equipment that prevents further replay of the therapy session.

What about confidentiality?

As clinical psychologists and psychologists-in-training, we respect your right to privacy and confidentiality. This includes your right to choose what you wish to discuss in therapy as well as your right to have this information protected from others.

We have both an ethical responsibility and a legal duty to protect the information you disclose in therapy. Your records are kept in locked files. They are not released to anyone without your written permission, unless it is required by law. At the end of 10 years, your records are shredded. You should be aware, however, that if you discuss the same matters with other people, besides your therapist, you may not have the same protections as you do with your therapist at the PSC.

To insure that you know the limits of confidentiality, here is a list of some of the exceptions found in the laws of Illinois. Most of the exceptions may not apply to you.

1. All reasonable suspicions of current child abuse or neglect must be reported to the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) immediately. Psychologists can lose their licenses if this is not done.

2. If a client threatens to do harm to himself, herself, or others, the psychologist has a duty to try to prevent this harm. This may include contacting the person who may be in danger, a family member, the police, or a hospital.

3. To insure the quality of service given, a therapist may consult with a supervisor, attorney, or fellow staff members at the PSC. These professionals are under the same legal requirements as your therapist to protect your privacy and confidentiality.

4. If you are involved in a court case and the court believes your therapy record is relevant to the case, the judge can order disclosure or inspection of your record. If you are involved in a court case and you (or your attorney) raises your mental state as a reason for illegal behavior, the court can order disclosure or inspection of your record. If you are involved in a homicide, the court may be able to access your record. If you sue your therapist or are a witness against your therapist for reasons related to your therapy, your therapist is allowed to introduce your records, but only in so far as they are relevant to defending against your charges. The same is true if your therapist has to use legal measures to collect unpaid fees.

5. If you come to therapy or for testing under a court order the court has a right to any information you disclose that is relevant to the court order.

6. If you are under age 12 (and in some cases under age 18), if you are mentally incompetent, or if you die, your parent, guardian, or estate may have a right to your files.

7. If a portion of your therapy is paid for by your insurance or by a governmental agency (such as DCFS), this agency may have a right to inspect your record. (Please ask for more information if you have questions about this.)

8. Records that have been masked so that client identity can not be determined must be made available to agencies charged with monitoring educational and mental health facilities so that adequate standards of care can be maintained.

9. Anytime you sign a consent form for release of information, the information will be released, according to your instructions.

In addition, you have the right to read your file and to make any additions or corrections you feel are important. We are required to make these additions a permanent part of your record. You have a right to request a copy of your file; the file itself, however, is the property of the PSC. If you wish to read or get a copy of your file, please fill out a form procured from the PSC secretary. You will be charged a standard page rate for the cost of copies.

In general, does the PSC operate like other mental health facilities?

Yes, we try to make our training center as similar to mental health centers, private group practices, and medical school facilities as possible, except that much more supervision occurs. We have case conferences and treatment teams. We keep careful statistics and records. We have in-service training. Our staff members are constantly updating their knowledge.

How do you handle emergencies?

If a problem arises that cannot wait until a regularly scheduled meeting, you may contact the PSC secretary during office hours to see if a special appointment can be arranged. If an emergency arises after office hours, you should call the University Health Service (753-1311 for NIU students) or the Crisis Line (1-866-242-0111 for non-students), and indicate that you are currently being seen at PSC. If you feel that you are experiencing an emergency, you should state that clearly during the phone call.

The PSC closes for a week or more at Christmas and on all national holidays. We are closed on weekends. We are closed on Fridays during the summer. If there is an emergency at those times, please contact one of the numbers above.

Although we have an answering machine, no one checks this machine for messages during non-working hours.

What if I need medication for my problem?

We make referrals to either university or community psychiatrists when we feel clients may benefit from medication for a biologically-related mental health problem. We try to work closely with our medical colleagues to provide you with continuity of care.

Should I have a medical check-up?

Physical or mental symptoms (such as depression, fatigue, weight gain) are sometimes caused by medical illnesses. If you have not seen a physician recently for a check-up, we urge you to do so to rule out a medical explanation and treatment for your problems.

Will I be a research subject?

The PSC routinely collects information about clients' symptoms, improvement, and satisfaction (see Informed Consent in this intake packet). This information is used to plan specific services for you and to evaluate the effectiveness of our services for you and other clients. These records may be used anonymously in the future for a research study, with the permission of NIU's Institutional Review Board. At no time would you be identified. In addition, at times the PSC conducts studies for research or teaching purposes. In these cases you will be asked to participate and be provided with information about the study. You will never be included in such a study without your written consent.

What should I do if I am unhappy with my therapy or feel that my rights have been abused?

We ask that you first raise this question with your therapist, if you feel capable of doing so. Part of what makes therapy effective is the ability to discuss such matters in a therapeutic way. Sometimes, however, this may feel too threatening. In this case, the fastest and best way to get satisfaction is to talk with your therapist's supervisor and/or the PSC director. Each of these persons has a responsibility to you to see that you are getting adequate therapy and protection of your rights. To arrange for such a discussion please contact the PSC director, Dr. Karen J. White, at 815-753-0591.

In addition, you may take complaints to the Illinois Psychological Association (1-312-372-7610) or the American Psychological Association (1-202-955-7600) which monitor the ethical practice of psychology for members of those organizations, or the Department of Professional Regulation for the State of Illinois, 320 West Washington St., Springfield, Illinois 62785 (1-217-785-0800).

Return to the PSC home page.