Are you a stressed out, anxious student? Maybe everything’s overwhelming at the moment or now that you’re independent, you’re starting to deal with past childhood abuse or trauma. You may be struggling with drug or alcohol dependencies, an eating disorder, the death of someone close to you, or other issues. Maybe you’re returning to college in mid-life and are dealing with a divorce or the loss of a child. Whether you are 19 or 65, if you’re going through sh*t – big or small – don’t overlook this free resource on your campus. Most colleges and universities have free counseling offices and honestly, it’s the most overlooked but valuable resource you can claim.
Counseling off campus is expensive. At college and universities it’s typically free. Take advantage to deal with your stuff now, however painful, so that you can be stronger within yourself and not held back going forward in life.
Someone Who Listens
However old or young we are, we could all use an ear. Sometimes we need more than that. Our friends and families may or may not be there for us and even if they are, often a trained counsel or psychologist can help us deal with and ultimately move past current fears, anxieties, past abuse or traumas.
When I was going to college and law school, I took advantage of my campus counseling services several times to come to terms with various childhood traumas that kept me feeling small, fearful, neurotic, self-sabotaging and more. This talking with a professional was cathartic and healing, taught me coping skills and got me onto the path of putting the past into context so that it didn’t dominate my present and future in negative ways but instead built me stronger. Because of this, I highly encourage everyone to take advantage of campus counseling services if they think they can benefit in any way.
Here are some useful tips for taking advantage of campus counseling centers and to make your visit easier.
Rapport. Counseling centers usually have a number of trained counselors or psychologists. Some are licensed professionals. Others are students in training. Both can be equally wonderful fits. Finding someone you feel comfortable to confide in is really helpful. You can meet with one or more counselors to see who you can share most freely with. It’s not necessarily all about talking but finding someone who can help guide and counsel you as well.
Trust. Don’t feel pressured to meet with a random counselor. Often you can request a male or female counselor, which can be really helpful in certain circumstances or just to reassure you that the person knows where you’re coming from. Ask about specialties among the staff too. One or more might have specialties in childhood abuse, others with anxiety, still others with eating disorders, etc. Sometimes the center has a staff website where you can read profiles, though of course you can ask the receptionist. This can help you narrow to a counselor better suited to helping you. You can also ask your initial counselor, especially if the center does an intake interview, about the others on staff and if they would recommend someone in particular for you.
If someone makes you feel uncomfortable during your sessions, don’t feel like you have to meet with them again. Request someone else. If their behavior is unprofessional – such as encouraging personal meetings outside of the center – this should be a red flag. While this rarely happens, know that all staff should adhere to a standard of conduct.
The why. It can be daunting to enter a counseling center if you’ve never been before. Sort of like going to a medical doctor’s office, you may not want to verbally tell the receptionist for all to hear why you’re really there. Be at ease. They often have a questionnaire you fill out online or at your seat in the waiting room so that you’re not baring your soul and issues to everyone around.
Sometimes you may know why you’re there or only have a fuzzy idea. Maybe you’re not comfortable writing down the real reason either until you’ve checked out the counselors and services a bit more. That’s okay too. Often we have multiple things going on with us – from feeling overwhelmed by our coursework, dealing with breakups, the pressure of choosing a path in life, trauma, mental health issues to everything else. While it’s helpful to know why you’re there so that the counselors can better work with you, it’s not necessary. The important thing is to get the ball rolling so that you can move forward.
Empowering yourself. When you speak with a counselor, they’re there to help you deal with what’s going on inside you. They are a counselor, which means they may offer advice, methods and techniques, help diagnose if necessary, or just help you talk through your issue or issues. Their task is to facilitate your healing. Ultimately it is up to us to take responsibility for doing the necessary work to heal.
Thinking the counselor will solve your problem for you may not be as helpful as believing that they will help you come to terms and solve the issue by yourself or with their help. They may be able to point out ideas or insights that ultimately lead to solving a problem or dealing with it productively.
A good counselor is a gem that helps you develop your own strengths and abilities to face challenges, overcome them, and come out stronger for them having been there. To this day I am particularly grateful to two counselors who worked with me through a number of heartaches that left me feeling debilitated, alone, and depressed. Talking with them and learning how to process what I was going through gave me skills and insights that helped me throughout my life afterward.
If you’re a student on campus, take advantage of the campus counseling center to start the healing or recovery process. It’s a great gift to yourself that may wind up being more practical than any training or help you’ll receive in your major.
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