Some of the questions that plague college students when they’re considering personal counseling include: When is it right or ok to go see a counselor? Does it mean I’m crazy or weak? Will I just feel like a nuisance talking about my problems and feelings? Does a counselor actually care about me? Will a counselor see eye to eye or accept me, especially if I’m of a different gender or race, or I have different beliefs? Do I deserve this, or should others with greater needs have the time slot? Am I the only one who is struggling like this? Is the counselor just going to tell me how I’m supposed to feel, or what I am supposed to do? What do I say, and where do I start?
Many college students encounter problems or feelings that are not easily resolvable, and sometimes the usual ways of handling them may not be working effectively. Students sometimes find that talking to friends or relatives about their concerns is not very helpful as these individuals are either unsure what to say, or are not objective or patient enough to understand and join with them through the process, or they seem to have their own agenda instead.
Counseling is a chance to talk over what you see as the main sources of frustration or distress with a trained and objective person in a nonjudgmental setting. He or she will first listen to how you experience things in life, then can eventually help you consider new ways of understanding or looking at situations so you feel more capable of changing patterns that are keeping you caught in the current struggles. Counseling can include looking at current issues that are unexpected or overwhelming your usual coping strategies, or past events that have resurfaced and are affecting current functioning.
A counseling experience will be different for each person, but some of the common components of the process include:
- A specific time and place to express how you are feeling, and to look at your situation and begin identifying and changing patterns and beliefs that may not be working for you. (Approx. 50 min/session)
- A setting of non-judgment, where a counselor has no agenda other than caring about you and your well-being. You are the expert on your life, and a counselor should follow your lead and offer options and insight based on what you share with him/her. The more genuine and willing to share you are, the more benefits you will likely receive.
- Learning how to manage family, peer, and intimate relationships effectively so that they are not contributing to the stress. And, learning how to utilize friends’ and family’s support in a role that is comfortable and clear for them, and does not extend them beyond their patience or expertise.
- Learning how to intentionally manage your anxiety, stress, emotions, thoughts, etc. As an adult, you are now the only one responsible for your overall emotional well-being, so if you don’t take this role, it prevents you from being your healthiest so that you can help others in your life’s work.
- Counseling also involves understanding how the mind/brain works, setting and enforcing boundaries of respect, gaining insight into how one’s own beliefs originated, understanding one’s addictive thoughts and behaviors, learning to stay in the present vs. trying to problem-solve the past and future, etc.
On a personal note, I consider it a privilege to meet with each person who takes the chance to come into counseling, and to be allowed to be involved in their lives this way. It is only through others’ willingness to share, that I can experience certain life situations, and it is a humbling experience to be granted that permission. I take confidentiality, respect, and care for you very seriously, and will always strive to treat you, your time, and your story with the dignity you deserve.