Why You Should Go To the Counselor, Even If You're Okay
It is a large misconception on college campuses that students who seek out the services of the Counseling Center are “crazy” or “weak.” Similar to the general population, college students seek out counseling for a wide range of concerns, from homesickness and struggles with the transition to college life to more serious concerns such as eating disorders, substance abuse problems and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The counseling relationship is a professional one and is very different from a relationship with a parent, partner or friend. A counselor will attempt to help a student cope with problems, enhance personal growth and increase self-awareness by establishing a positive and trusting relationship. In order to remain professional and objective, a counselor will likely not disclose personal information about him or herself.
Counselors provide a comfortable, nonjudgmental and safe environment for students to share personal struggles and receive feedback and tools for how to help overcome challenges. There are various types of counselors and it can be confusing to understand the differences.
Listed below are four types of counseling professionals that you might encounter in a college counseling center:
Psychologists have a doctorate in psychology and they undergo at least four years of graduate training in research, human behavior and therapeutic techniques. In addition to conducting therapy, they specialize in the administration of psychological tests and assessments and carry out psychological research.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors. They attend medical school and complete a 3 to 5-year psychiatric residency and they have the ability to assess the need for and prescribe medication for mental health problems.
Social workers have a Master’s degree in social work, which entails two years of education and training. A unique characteristic of social workers is their knowledge of social support systems, organizations and groups and how they affect an individual’s psychological well-being.
Counselors have specialized training in particular areas and/or they may have advanced degrees (e.g., Master’s degrees) in counseling-related fields such as mental health counseling or psychology. They tend to deal with very specific problems, such as alcohol addiction or career indecision.
Common misconceptions of counseling:
- Counseling is only for people that are “crazy” or that need to be institutionalized
- That a counselor will tell you what you should or should not do
- A counselor can share what is said with parents and professors
- That seeking counseling is a sign of weakness
- Counseling requires a long-term commitment
Facts about counseling:
- Counseling benefits many types of people; those with chronic problems and those dealing with situational concerns
- Counselors will respect your autonomy and help you make your own decisions
- For the most part, counseling is confidential and information will not be shared unless you give your written consent. Your counselor will go over the limits to confidentially at the onset of counseling, typically during the first session
- It can take a lot of strength and courage to tell someone about personal struggles
- Counseling can help with both short-term and long-term problems, and length of time can be decided on between you and your counselor (Note: some counseling centers have session limits so students requiring longer term counseling may be referred out)
Counseling can help with the following:
- Using personal strengths and attributes in a variety of situations
- Identifying problem areas and factors that attribute to difficulties and dissatisfaction
- Learning what thoughts and behaviors attribute to and maintain problems and how to change them
- Improving stress-management skills
- Building self-confidence and self-esteem
- Enhancing the quality of relationships
- Making better decisions
- Leading a more satisfying and fulfilling life
Common concerns students seek counseling for help with:
- Break-up of a romantic relationship
- Family problems
- Relational problems with a partner, roommates, friends or professors
- Problems with drugs and/or alcohol
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal thinking
- Grief and loss
- Lack of motivation
If you are struggling with the challenges of college life or would like to learn more about yourself, try working with a counselor. Most college and universities have counseling centers where students can receive services free of charge. Most students find counseling helpful for working through concerns that are negatively affecting college life.