Illustration by Fatima Alrebh.

How to Access Mental Health Resources Off Campus

Seeking help may seem daunting, or even tedious. This guide provides streamlined information on how to access treatment off campus.

Apr 18, 2021

Disclaimer: The following piece is not an endorsement of the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology, rather an explainer of how to access mental health resources off-campus. We encourage students to report malpractice or any negative experience to the relevant authorities.
NYU Abu Dhabi’s Health Center has three counselors, and a newly hired psychiatrist on board — according to an email sent to the NYUAD students on March 7. REACH, NYUAD’s student-led peer to peer support and mental health advocacy group, has an expansive range of Nook peer-counselling hours and collaborates with departments to organize other initiatives to cater to the community’s mental wellbeing.
That said, gaps between the community’s needs for exhaustive mental health resources and accessibility to the support offered remain prevalent. And in the face of a pandemic that has significantly impacted and deteriorated the mental health of college students, it is only natural that there may be a spike of demand for adequate mental health care. From delays in referrals and appointment times, uncertainties about insurance coverage, to concerns about renewing prescriptions and general anxiety in seeking help, the barriers are many. This piece breaks down the process of accessing mental health support from off-campus resources.
Accessing Off-Campus Mental Health Care: Do We Go Through NYUAD or Independently?
In addition to on campus counselling, students can explore services in Abu Dhabi covered by Oman Insurance or GeoBlue. The two main centers that NYUAD students are referred to are the American Center of Psychiatry and Neurology and HealthPlus. The ACPN offers a range of services including counseling, psychometric testing and diagnosis.
The Gazelle spoke to Zuha Zubair, Clinical Coordinator at the ACPN, to deconstruct the process of seeking care there. According to Zubair, it is recommended to reach out to the NYUAD Health Center or directly email Amat Sharif, Care Management Specialist, to get a referral to their center for counseling or other support. While students can independently arrange for an appointment by emailing or calling the ACPN directly, getting a referral through the NYUAD Health Center may streamline the process. According to Sharif, a Health Center referral guarantees that direct payment through the insurance provider is pre-approved before students go through the appointment itself. This prevents the possibility that students have to pay out of pocket at the ACPN and have to navigate reimbursement independently.
Global Options and Virtual Therapy
Given the increased use of telemedicine, if students wish to access or continue accessing support from therapists at their home location, they can find a list of providers in their area at the GeoBlue international health insurance online portal and provider directory.
If the area is not covered by GeoBlue, it may still be possible to access insurance-covered mental health care. Sharif explained that students can reach out to the GeoBlue 24/7 helpline to seek further advice. While licensing restrictions may inhibit professionals from providing care outside their areas, this is still an option worth exploring, especially if students want to sustain a relationship with a counselor they know.
It is also possible to continue seeing counselors from the Global Network that students may have connected with during study aways, such as from the NYU New York campus. To arrange a conversation with a professional, call the Wellness Exchange.
The American Center Psychiatry & Neurology
The ACPN is accessible through a 25 minute cab ride costing around 35 AED. Since the center is only seven minutes away from Al Wahda Mall, students frequently take the university shuttle to the mall and take a cab from there.
The time between the referral and getting an actual appointment with the psychiatrist at the ACPN varies on the urgency of the situation, and also on the referred physician’s availability. For counseling support and prescriptions for medications, NYUAD students are all referred to one psychiatrist, Dr. Tamer Metwally, for further assessment, and can expect to wait anywhere from only a day or up to a week or more for an appointment. After the initial assessment, Metwally refers students to any of the counselors at the center; there may be another delay in scheduling counseling appointments. One student reported having to wait for a week between the referral and seeing the psychiatrist, and then faced a wait of up to a month to actually see the psychologist.
What Is Covered by Our Insurance?
The Oman Insurance Card provides full coverage for sessions with psychiatrists as well as psychologists at the ACPN, and GeoBlue insurance provides coverage for any diagnostic and psychometric assessments. For counseling, coverage is often pre-approved for a few sessions at a time, and can be updated easily, most often through an updated referral for continued care. If referred through the Health Center, the ACPN is already provided with the students’ insurance details so upon arrival, students only need to present an identification document. These can be either an Emirates I.D. or passport — either a hard or a soft copy.
ACPN Counsellors
The first appointment with a psychiatrist at the ACPN is always in person – subject to change given Department of Health guidelines. The psychiatrist refers students to any of the counselors on board for further support as required and evaluates and updates prescriptions for medication. Subsequent sessions with the psychiatrist or with other counselors, may be carried out virtually.
The ACPN offers access to a range of diverse therapists, including female and therapists of color. Based on their website, there are 13 psychologists currently working at ACPN, eight of which are women.
Counselors may also specialize in addressing particular issues. If students have a need for specific support or treatment — such as trauma counseling, support for eating disorders, therapy for anxiety disorders or depression, they may be able to be paired with a specialist in their particular area. Students can explore their options through the ACPN website or indicate specific needs while setting up the appointment or during consultation. Zubair also noted that while referral to a nutritionist in cases of eating disorders is rare, it is still a possibility.
Students are almost always promised full confidentiality about matters discussed during counseling and if there is ever a need to disclose information to any other source, the student’s consent is sought beforehand. While it is rare for practitioners to have to disclose any information shared during counselling sessions to third parties, they are obligated to report to relevant authorities and third parties if the patient poses a significant threat to the community, without seeking the individual’s consent.
Testing, Diagnosis and Prescriptions
For diagnostic and psychometric assessments carried out at the ACPN — such as testing for ADD and ADHD, sleep studies, OCD and additionally bipolar disorders, students can expect to wait up to two to three weeks to receive reports, according to Zubair. Once reports are available, students are first connected to a therapist for a feedback session to understand the findings of the report. Then, these reports are shared with students through email. The process of undergoing testing itself can take up to two to three hours at a time, but may be broken up into smaller sessions over a few days.
If students are already on medication, ACPN can renew their prescriptions after a brief evaluation with their psychiatrist. Medication is accessible easily through the ACPN pharmacy and is most often covered by insurance.
While there is no formal mechanism of giving feedback or reporting malpractice at the ACPN, if students have a negative experience, want to give feedback or change their course of treatment or counselor, they can refer to a clinical coordinator at the ACPN. They can also speak to Amat Sharif at the NYUAD Health Center.
While seeking help from unfamiliar places may seem overwhelming at first, there are mechanisms and a spectrum of care in place to support you in the process of getting the help that you need.
ACPN email:
ACPN number: 800 2276
GeoBlue 24/7 Medical Assistance Helpline: +1 610 254 8771
GeoBlue Email:
Wellness Exchange: +971 2-628-5555
Health Center and Amat Sharif’s email:,
Huma Umar is Features Editor. Email her at
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