The University of St. Francis encourages the establishment of lifestyle behaviors that promote healthy living patterns consistent with our Franciscan values of respect, service, integrity and compassion.
All services offered by USF Mental Health Counselors are confidential, and release of confidential information may only be made with the written consent of the student.
College students experience major transitional challenges in their lives upon enrolling into university. These issues may include, but are not limited to, anxiety, depression, relationship problems, stress/time management, eating disorders, etc. The University of St. Francis encourages the establishment of lifestyle behaviors that promote healthy living patterns consistent with our Franciscan values of respect, service, integrity and compassion.
Counseling services are provided free of charge to currently enrolled USF students and are available to USF alumni for a fee of $45 per session. These services may be provided in person or via telehealth, as well as in an individual or group format depending on need and/or preference.
Counselors are available to assist with a range of concerns including, but not limited to:
Counseling Center staff members are also available to provide consultation services, psycho-educational classroom presentations, and crisis management training workshops upon request throughout the academic year.
Director of Counseling & Wellness
Dr. Mary Ann Andrade-Bekker is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who worked at St. Francis for several years prior to her role as Director of Counseling & Wellness. After earning her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from USF in 2007, she attended the Adler School of Professional Psychology and received her Master of Arts in Counseling in 2010 and doctorate in Clinical Psychology in 2015.
Dr. Bekker utilizes a holistic approach when working with clients and is engaged in social justice issues in the Chicagoland area. She has experience conducting individual, couples, and group counseling sessions with children, adolescents, young adults, and the geriatric population. Her clinical interests include depression, anxiety, grief, post-traumatic stress disorder, family and peer relationship issues, phase of life transitions, mindfulness, and incorporating a holistic approach of wellness with clients. Dr. Bekker practices from an Adlerian and Brief Solution-Focused approach, yet incorporates other modalities such as cognitive behavioral and humanistic practices in her work with clients.
Matthew N. Caston, Jr.
M.A., LCPC, CCTP, C-PD
Clinical Mental Health Counselor
As a counselor, Matthew “Matt” Caston strives to meet people “where they’re at.” Upon obtaining his master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Lewis University, he has worked tirelessly to assist others with developing insight on different factors to their presenting issues. He often turns to Dialectical Behavioral Theory to assist students with learning adaptive strategies to cope with life stressors. Matthew also incorporates Psychodynamic, Emotion-Focused, and Motivational Interviewing approaches to help process and alter ineffective patterns of behavior and cognition.
In sessions, he looks to gauge his students’ level of insight regarding change, and offers skills coaching to process dynamics relating to emotion regulation and distress tolerance. Mindfulness practice is another component Matthew incorporates to help others recognize the importance of living in the present moment. In doing so, he hopes to validate their concerns & help facilitate changes that will guide them in reaching their potential.
Matthew sees great value in those who come to counseling and are forthcoming about the issues that brings them in. His clinical interests involve anxiety, mood and personality disorders, grief/trauma, masculinity, multiculturalism, and relationship issues. Clients experience him as warm and thoughtful, with a good sense of humor, and an ally in the tough moments.
Clinical Mental Health Counselor
Dr. Merlo received her master’s degree in Community/Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Governors State University in 2008. She returned to obtain her doctorate in Counseling & Supervision Education in 2014. As an experienced clinician, she has worked in a variety of settings since entering the mental health field; having worked at USF for several years as a clinician.
Dr. Merlo believes that psychological and emotional difficulties are contextual in nature and develop over time. From this perspective she works from a strength-based wellness approach rather than a symptom-focused medical model. Dr. Merlo utilizes an integrative approach, incorporating Cognitive-Behavioral, Emotion-Focused, and Family-Systems approaches to assist her clients in developing and achieving their goals and maintaining balance in their lives.
Emily E. Renn
Emily E. Renn is a third year-graduate student at Adler University, where she is pursuing her MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a Specialization in Rehabilitation Counseling and her MS in Sport and Human Performance. She received her BS in Psychology from Loyola University Chicago in 2015.
Emily approaches counseling from a holistic perspective, honoring the various identities of her clients. She primarily practices from a Cognitive Behavioral/Motivational Interviewing integrative approach. Her clinical interests include depression, anxiety, life transitions, relationship issues, and identity. Emily believes that skills training is an essential component of counseling and enjoys challenging her clients to develop new perspectives on their lives. She is passionate about helping USF students achieve their therapeutic goals to best prepare them for their lives after graduation.
Jessica “Jess” Kaminsky is currently a Counselor-in-Training at USF. Jessica’s passion for mental health led her to pursue a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Adler University, which she will complete this summer. Throughout her program, Jessica has maintained an interest in counseling young adults within a college setting, and she is excited to be a part of the USF Counseling Team.
Jessica recognizes that entering a college program at any age is a unique experience that can oftentimes include a mixture of both positive and negative emotions as students take the next step in their professional careers while learning to juggle new responsibilities with personal and social lives. Jessica is a strong advocate of the idea that despite being on your own journey, you do not have to walk the path alone.
As a counselor, Jessica seeks to validate her clients’ experiences and provide empathic support and encouragement. Jessica believes that insight can lead to growth. She uses an integrative approach to help clients explore the formative roots of their thoughts, beliefs, emotional and behavioral patterns and find ways to incorporate more effective coping skills to handle life’s stressors and foster better relationships. Her clinical interests include grief/loss, trauma, anxiety, depression, relationships, and advocacy for survivors of sexual violence.
The following information is provided to help you gain a better understanding of what to expect and what not to expect when you decide to make the courageous decision to give counseling a try.
At times, students referred to our office feel as if they have been forced to come to counseling by parents or other concerned parties and are “unwilling participants.” Although we believe counseling can help anyone, you cannot grow or heal if you do not come in on your own accord. If you feel coerced into attending counseling, express your discomfort to your counselor and we can talk about it—please do not hold in your reluctance!
YOU will fix you. Our job is to “help you help yourself.” The goal of counseling is to empower you with ways to deal with life issues, learn about triggers, unhelpful patterns, and build resiliency, so you can thrive rather than survive—and become your best you.
It’s likely you will feel much better after meeting with a counselor, but the journey requires you to be brave and fearless. Depending on what brought you in to counseling, it may be important to recall memories and experiences or change a behavioral style which can be trying, upsetting, even overwhelming. Being in counseling helps you feel better, but it’s beneficial to know that the journey can sometimes be bumpy. If you stick with and embrace the process, it’s likely you will be amazed with the end results!
Change does not happen overnight. Nor does the development of insight or replacing old behaviors with new ones. It takes time and collaboration with your counselor to develop and work towards practical and realistic goals that are specific to your needs. As time progresses, you can review these targeted goals and redefine them if necessary.
Like a friend or family member, a counselor is a friendly, caring, interested person to talk to when you are experiencing life’s difficulties. Unlike a friend or family member, your counselor has been extensively trained to listen not only with the intent to understand and provide empathic support, but also with the goal to identify, explore, and clarify the experiences that negatively affect your wellbeing. Active listening and follow up questions assist your counselor in applying appropriate theory and techniques specific to your needs and goals. In addition, your counselor’s clinical objectivity, allows you to receive a balanced, unbiased frame of reference— something that often is blurred in other relationships.
It takes time to get to know and trust your counselor, but sometimes personality differences, lack of connection, or other factors may be an indication of a “mismatch.” If this happens, it may be difficult for you to feel comfortable talking about personal issues and to feel safe letting go of fears or trying out new behaviors. If you don’t feel comfortable, it’s perfectly fine to request a different counselor. You will NOT be hurting your counselor’s feelings—we want the best for you and realize we cannot be everyone’s ‘cup of java.” We have a variety of counselors with unique styles available to meet with you and assist you in your positive growth and development.
There are two ways to schedule an appointment for in-person or telehealth services:
Please note that a counselor will reach out to you in 24 hours to schedule an appointment. Counselors check their emails Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest hospital. For other medical needs or health circumstances, you are invited to visit the Wellness Center, where a registered nurse provides basic medical services for students and makes referrals to other health care providers/agencies when necessary.
How to submit Medical Records
We make it easy to submit your medical health records! You can either use your phone’s Camera Scanner Application or your own scanner.
Here are the steps to submit your records:
Please allow two business days for a copy of your health records. In compliance with privacy regulations, health records can only be given to students. Contact Health Records within the Wellness Center for additional information at 815-740-3399.
What to do in the event of an illness or injury?
All traditional, undergraduate students and international students are automatically enrolled for USF health insurance every year. Students can view/print detailed policy information and an insurance card from the website studentinsurance.com. While graduate students are not automatically enrolled, they are able to purchase student insurance upon request. Insurance brochures are available at the Wellness Center located on the second floor of Tower Hall, Room S213.
International students do have the option of waving the USF student health insurance, but your submitted insurance plan will be reviewed by our student health insurance provider (WellFleet) to make sure that the plan meets the minimum requirements. If the request is denied, WellFleet will follow up with you on how to request additions to your submitted plan for re-submission in the waiver process.
If you are a domestic traditional undergraduate and do not require USF insurance, you may waive it by completing an online insurance waiver form.
This process must be completed every year to avoid school insurance charges. Reminders will be sent to USF student emails prior to the deadline. Note: there is no hard copy of this form.
For additional information or for assistance contact USF Health Records at 815-740-3399, or visit the office on the second floor of Tower Hall, Room S213.
Student Insurance Waiver Next Deadline:
How to Obtain Insurance Waiver?
How Often Do I have to Do Waiver?
When is the Insurance Waiver Offered?