Has it hit you yet that you are in college?! Maybe it has, and you can’t even remember life before college, or you might be at that phase where you are wondering if your college days will ever end. Or maybe the transition between high school and college is a blur (thank you pandemic). And, of course, maybe you are just about to embark on your college career. No matter where you are, being a college student is not easy. This is a life transition, and with change comes stress. It is natural and expected. Our brains like homeostasis, so when things change, our brains are put on alert. It is actually a very helpful automatic process that helps us prepare for this milestone!
This might also be the first time you have to take care of yourself. You might be learning to cook, doing your own laundry, learning how to schedule your days, and yes, even taking care of your mental health.
It can be scary to start seeing a therapist. Many of my college-age clients began treatment due to their concerned parents calling and making them an appointment. It is hard to make that call, but talking with so many young adults about why they did not make the call, helped me learn about the misconceptions young adults have about therapy! I would love to clear up these false ideas and hopefully give you some helpful information about why therapy is awesome for your age group! So read on for 5 things every college student should know about therapy!
1. It counts as self-care:
I know, when we hear “self-care,” we think of massages and bubble baths. While those are wonderful ways to give yourself some nurture, therapy is one of the highest forms of self-care you can partake in. This is a space for you to explore yourself more authentically and deeply – to give yourself a safe haven amid a busy and stressful world. Many of us need to learn how to engage in self-care because we never were taught or learned how! Therapy is a great way to acquire this important life skill.
2. It is confidential:
No one has to know! Your privacy is protected in therapy. No one needs to know that you see a therapist. Not your professors, not your friends, not your parents, not your partner…seriously no one! Unless you share that you are planning on seriously hurting yourself or others, you decide who knows or does not know that you are seeing a therapist.
3. You don’t need to have had a trauma or crisis to see a therapist:
Of course, many people start therapy after a crisis or traumatic life event. But I cannot tell you how many times I hear college student clients say, “Other people have it way worse than me; I don’t even have real problems; you must think I am such a complainer.” This is not farther from the truth! Seeing a therapist is not always about processing traumas or getting through a crisis. Therapy is a space of support. An accepting ear to help you navigate through life. Life has ups and downs, and your therapist wants to hear about all of it! Going to therapy when life is going well can be a great way to reflect and absorb the positivity you are experiencing. By resourcing the positive moments in life, you will be better equipped to navigate the harder ones. It can even be a place to vent about the impossible math class you are barely passing, or it can be a place to explore your next steps after college…the next phase.
4. It doesn’t have to be forever:
Therapy is not an infinite contract you sign! You and your therapist will work together to determine your goals and decide how long you will meet. In addition, you don’t even need to go every week! You can choose how often and how long your involvement is. Your therapist may have some recommendations, but you ultimately get to decide when it’s time to discontinue. And the best part; you can always come back!
5. You may have a therapist on-campus:
Most universities have an on-campus counseling program that is free or low-cost to attending students. The number of sessions is oftentimes limited, but it can be a great way to try it out. If you enjoy it, your counselor will likely have referrals and resources if you are looking for a more long-term therapist. Of course, we at Individual and Family Connection would love to have you!
I hope that these 5 things every college student should know about therapy have given you a new perspective or shined some light on how therapy can be a helpful support to you while in college. I always say the hardest part is making the call. Entering adulthood is hard – you don’t have to navigate it alone.
Ritamaria is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and Certified Theraplay Therapist, Trainer, and Supervisor. She has spent her professional career as a pediatric therapist, clinical supervisor, and clinical director of Individual and Family Connection. Ritamaria lives in Oak Park with her husband and daughters, ages 6 and 2