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Ask The Experts

Can My Girlfriend Attend Counseling While Maintaining Privacy?


I have a girlfriend who is attending college with me. We have already been together for a couple of months and have made it through the first quarter together. The main problem is that I am currently her only support and before me she was completely on her own. She doesn’t have huge problems. To be honest a therapist would probably say she should be more screwed up than she is. However she does have some medical conditions that I think the school could help us with. She has child onset schizophrenia, ADHD and bipolarism. She has kept these conditions a secret from everyone and doesn’t take medication for them. She has incredible control over her conditions. I had been dating and living with her for a while (about a month) before I found out. She is skeptical that the school will be able to help without making her take medication. The question is what can a college do for her without encroaching on her own rights? Any advice would be amazing. I wish I could write more.

Victor Schwartz, M.D., Medical Director, The Jed Foundation answers:

This is certainly a complicated situation. The first thing I wonder about is, it is not at all clear from what you write how her problems manifest-so it is not at all clear what kind of help she might need. She certainly could receive counseling (talk therapy) from school and they technically cannot force her to take medicine-but if these diagnoses are correct, it is likely they will try to urge her to do so if she has prominent symptoms. Also, the office of disabilities at your school may be able to help her receive accommodations if those are needed and would be helpful. But they also may say that if she ought to be receiving treatment for her problems and is refusing needed and appropriate treatment, this may have a negative impact on their ability to advocate for her.

Finally, if she at least gets to know people from the counseling service, they might be able to monitor her situation and step in to help if things deteriorate.