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Being a student can be stressful. Balancing academics with family, social activities, and employment is, to say the least, no easy feat. . Sometimes it can help to talk with someone about the many responsibilities you’re balancing, or sort through an experience or feeling. If you’re in need of an unbiased ear, meeting with a counselor may be right for you.
Reasons to Talk
There’s a common misconception that the only people who work with professional counselors are those with serious mental health issues. In fact anyone can benefit from having a place to talk about what is going on in their life.
This list highlights a few of the issues you might speak with a counselor about::
- You want to be more assertive
- You’re questioning the health of a relationship
- You want to learn more about yourself
- You’re having trouble sleeping
- You are concerned about a friend or family member
- You want to feel better about your body or yourself in general
- You feel sad or anxious
- You want to understand your actions
- You’re having trouble concentrating
- You’re overwhelmed by all your responsibilities
- You want to talk about something that happened, recently or in the past
- You want to talk about your use of alcohol or other drugs
- You want to increase your sense of self-awareness
- Someone has hurt you—emotionally, physically, sexually, or in another way
- You need a confidential place to share your feelings and experiences
Remember, if you or someone you know is considering suicide and need to talk to someone immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255[TALK] (service members and family/friends can press 1 to be connected with a Department of Veteran Affairs responder).
Who They Are
The phrase“Counselor” is a catchall term for people who have been professionally trained to listen and help people. Like most professionals, there are different types of counselors, with a number of different specializations and credentials. A few of the different titles in the counseling field are:
- Social workers
- Licensed Mental Health/Professional Clinical Counselors
- Psychiatric nurse practitioners
- Graduate and doctoral students in the above professions
More about these qualifications
If you want to meet with a counselor, but are curious how the person you’re speaking with has been trained, ask! Feel free to ask where they went (or go) to school, if they have a specialty, and if they have particular ways in which they like to work. Counselors are there to serve you, so they want you to feel informed and comfortable.
What They Do
Some people think, that a counselor is supposed to solve their problems or give them advice. This is not how counseling works. Generally, a counselor’s main focus is on helping students figure out what they want to do, and how they want to do it.
Some counselors do more listening than talking, and others ask many questions. Overall, the goal is to get to know you and what you’re hoping to accomplish by meeting. Because most insurance carriers cover a maximum number of sessions (for a given issue), you will be encouraged and assisted to build a toolbox of skills that you can use in many areas of your life. A counselor’s goal is for you to feel confident and balanced: in short, to be your best self.
At an Appointment
During your first counseling session, your counselor will ask you questions, often about: who you are, what made you decide to make an appointment,. your family background and your life experiences in general. While these questions might seem personal, the counselor asks them to get to know who you are, what your hoping to get by engaging in counseling, and to put your current situation into context. This is your opportunity to share how you’re truly feeling. There’s no need to be embarrassed or feel shameful about anything you might say. The job of a counselor is to be non-judgmental and provide you with a safe place to be honest and open. Counselors are trained to deal with difficult subject matter. Remember, no matter how strange, shocking, sad, funny, difficult, or sensitive it is, the more open you are with your counselor, the more you will gain from the counseling experience.
Everything you talk about with a counselor is confidential. If you want something to be shared with another practitioner, or someone else, you will have to consent in writing. The only exception to this rule is if you are in immediate danger of hurting yourself or someone else.
After your first, or “intake” appointment, you’ll set up another time to meet with your counselor. These sessions are usually 45-50 minutes long and are your chance to speak about anything, and everything that might impact your life. This is your space to focus on you, so be active in identifying what you want to work on!
If You Don’t Click
Working with a counselor is something that requires trust and openness. t Like any other relationship, you might not connect with the first counselor you meet with. This is normal, and something that all counselors are accustomed to If you’d like to try talking with someone different, tell the counselor and/or the person who makes appointments. You can simply say that you think you might get more out of the experience with someone who has a different approach. If you describe what you’re looking for, you’ll likely get a recommendation. Sometimes it can take a few tries to find the right match, and that’s completely normal.
Counselors and therapists are great resources; no matter what it is you’d like to work on. There is no issue too small, or too big. Reaching out to talk is something students do every day. If you need support, contact your health care provider, or do some research online to identify available community resources. United Way 211 and PsychologyToday are great places to start when looking for a local counselor and related services.
- If you’re looking for an unbiased ear, consider talking with a counselor.
- If someone you know is having a hard time, support him or her in seeking help.
- Set aside concerns of embarrassment or shame. Thousands of students seek counseling every day.
- Contact a trusted health care provider or your insurance carrier if you have questions or to make an appointment.
- Remember that counseling conversations are confidential.
Get help or find out more
You can also speak with a trusted mentor, advisor, clergy member, or contact any of these organizations:
The Jed Foundation
https://www.jedfoundation.org/ The Trevor Project
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline