About Counseling Services

Academic mastery, social relationships, and participation in the University community can provide fulfilling experiences that contribute to personal and professional growth and wellness. However, at times these positive experiences can be interspersed with feelings of distress and self-doubt when students are confronted with the many demanding pressures in your lives, both academic and personal.

If you believe that there is room for improvement in your personal effectiveness and resilience in some areas of your life, a psychological consultation may help you work toward such improvements. You may notice that you have certain patterns of thinking and behavior that interfere with your success with and the enjoyment of certain endeavors. If so, you should consider making an appointment. The counseling staff at the SHAC understand these challenges and are here to support your growth and development, help you restore balance, build strength, gain emotional resiliency and increase your personal well-being.


  • Individual Counseling
  • Couple's Counseling (*both individuals need to be SMU students)
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Mental Health Consultation
  • Outreach & Presentations
  • Health Screenings
  • Local 12-Step Groups
  • Off-Campus Referrals

Unsure if you might need counseling?
Take this online Mental Health Screening and see if speaking with a counselor might be beneficial for you. Also see Counseling FAQs

The Scope of Our Services
Staff members at the SHAC utilize a short-term model of therapy for individual and couple sessions in order to use its resources most effectively and assist students in addressing issues common in a college setting. Short-term personal psychotherapy is available at no charge to currently enrolled students, up to 10 sessions per calendar year.

The SHAC invites students to schedule an initial intake appointment with a staff therapist. During this initial intake, the therapist will assist students in obtaining the appropriate services to address the concerns by recommending services on and off campus. Student concerns that can be addressed within a brief model of therapy are usually referred to the SHAC while more comprehensive concerns or medication issues requiring longer-term therapy are best addressed in the community.

Some of the issues that are commonly addressed in short-term counseling at the SHAC include:

  • Personal Issues: Stress and anxiety, depression, anger, loneliness, guilt, self-esteem, grief and loss
  • Relationship Issues: Romantic relationship difficulties, sexual concerns, roommate conflicts, difficulties with co-workers, issues with family or friends
  • Developmental Issues: Identity development, adjustment to college, life transitions, cultural concerns
  • Academic Concerns: Performance anxiety, perfectionism, underachievement,  motivation
  • Other Issues: Spiritual concerns, body image/food preoccupation, healthy lifestyle choices, alcohol and drug use concerns, sexual assault

Faculty & Staff: Counseling staff are available to provide faculty and staff with a variety of services including consultations about students you may be concerned about, classroom presentations and other mental health outreach needs.  The counseling staff are not able to see Staff and Faculty members for personal counseling services. Staff and Faculty can obtain personal counseling services through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as part of their employee benefits or directly through their private health insurance benefits.

Service Limitations
Students whose mental health needs cannot be accommodated within short-term counseling, or who require a particular type of expertise, need to meet with a clinician more than once a week, or are in need of a psychotropic medication, are referred to community resources. Students may be referred out to the community after the initial intake or during the course of treatment at the SHAC as factors become apparent during or after the intake assessment.

Some of the issues that are commonly and more appropriately addressed by services in the community include:

  • Need to see a therapist more than once a week; for more than 10 counseling sessions in longer-term therapy, and/or require comprehensive services due to:
  • History of multiple psychiatric hospitalizations
  • Chronic suicidality and/or self-injury behaviors; history of suicide attempts
  • Indication that short-term therapy may be detrimental or non-beneficial
  • Evidence or risk of progressive deterioration in mental or emotional functioning, requiring intensive intervention
  • Manifestations of psychotic symptoms without willingness to remain on medication for stabilization of symptoms
  • Inability or unwillingness to provide the necessary information to thoroughly assess symptoms.
  • Students who need specialized services not available through the SHAC as indicated by:
    • Significant drug and/or alcohol problems such as substance dependence, primary substance abuse, and/or past failed treatments
    • Significant or long-standing eating disorder with no period of remission, no previous treatment, or that may pose a medical danger
    • Request for psychological evaluation for the purpose of employment clearance or other nonacademic needs
    • Services to fulfill students’ court-mandated assessment or treatment requirements.

Please note, SHAC clinical staff members are unable to provide documentation for emotional support animals.

Students at the OAKLAND campus can make initial intake appointments by contacting the SHAC at (510) 879-9288.  

Students at the SAN FRANCISCO PENINSULA and SACRAMENTO campuses, as well as students in our ONLINE programs can access mental health services either on the Oakland campus or through the Sutter Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which will connect you with a provider in the community. Through EAP students will also receive up to 10 sessions per calendar year, free of charge. Please contact (800) 477-2258 to learn more about Sutter EAP.
The Samuel Merritt University Student Health and Counseling Center (SHAC) values and protects the privacy of all students.  Counseling often involves the discussion of sensitive personal information. It is important that you feel safe in your discussions with a SHAC clinician, and that you understand that your privacy is respected and protected, consistent with the parameters of CA state and federal laws.  Providing confidential services means that Counseling Center staff members do not release your information outside the SHAC without your verbal and/or written permission. Counseling records are maintained separately from any other records of the University.

There are some exceptions to confidentiality as allowed by law in the following situations:

  • Child and/or Elder Abuse: If a counselor or other qualified individual has reason to believe that a child under the age of 18 or a dependent adult is being abused or neglected, s/he is legally required to report the situation to the appropriate state agency.
  • Imminent Harm to Self: If a counselor or other qualified individual has reason to believe that you are in danger of physically harming yourself, and if you are unwilling or unable to follow specific counseling recommendations, s/he may have to make an involuntary referral to a hospital and/or contact a family member or other person who may be able to help you protect you. Appropriate University officials, medical, or law enforcement personnel will be notified to ensure the safety of the student and the community.
  • Imminent Harm to Others: If a counselor or other qualified individual has reason to believe that you are seriously threatening physical violence against another person, or if you have a history of violent behavior, s/he may be required to take some action to insure the safety of the other person.
  • Legal Demands: If legal demands to release information are made (e.g. court orders, subpoenas), or your emotional condition being used as a claim or defense in a legal situation.
  • Minors: Minor students under the age of 18 who voluntarily seek treatment in their best interests are generally afforded the same confidentiality protection as an adult student, but there are some limitations which a clinician will be happy to discuss with you. These limitations should not keep you from seeking help. Call and consult with a SHAC clinician about your confidentiality concerns.

In any of the above instances, SHAC professional staff will make every attempt to inform you before any confidential information is released. If the disclosure of information does become necessary, we will only release the minimum information needed to protect you or others.

Information regarding students is routinely shared internally among Counseling Center staff, primarily for case consultation and therapist supervision.  Clinicians may obtain necessary and confidential consultation or supervision with other mental health professionals to ensure the quality of your care. The Counseling Center may exchange information regarding your treatment with other health care professionals within the SHAC for the purposes of coordinating care without your written consent, as specified by law.

Student counseling information may be used in aggregate form for some purposes such as maintaining accurate statistics and conducting research.  In these instances, any information uniquely identifying an individual is removed.

Please contact the Student Health and Counseling Center at (510) 879-9288 or talk with your therapist if you have more specific questions about confidentiality of your records.

For more information on the legal and ethical aspects of Professional Counseling, see the CA Board of Psychology Consumer Resources, including:

SHAC staff members do not provide after hours crisis intervention. If you need immediate mental health assessment or care after hours, during weekends or holiday breaks, you may choose from the following options:

  1. Contact the Sutter EAP 24/7 line at 800-477-2258. Identify yourself as an SMU student.
  2. Call 911, go to your nearest hospital emergency room
  3. Call a Local or National 24-hour crisis support hotline.

In any of these situations, you are encouraged to also call the Counseling Center at (510) 879-9288 as soon as possible to alert the staff that you are need in of help.




In non-emergency/crisis situation, you can also contact your health insurance to obtain a list of mental health providers available in your area. Please refer to this "Finding an Off-Campus Mental Health Provider" guide to help you with this process.

We are also fortunate in the SF Bay Area to have a large volume of local counseling centers and clinics that can see individuals and couples for a sliding scale/low fee. At these centers you will often be seen by an intern/trainee who is supervised by a licensed mental health professional. If interested in this option, please see this "SF Bay Area Lower Fee/Sliding Scale Counseling Center" Guide to find a center near you.

The SHAC's counseling services are staffed by two licensed clinical psychologists:    

     Jeanne M. Zeamba, Psy.D.
     Staff Psychologist

     Anglyn Sasser, Psy.D.
     Staff Psychologist 



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