Going to see a school therapist does not mean you are crazy. It doesn’t mean you’re depressed or emo or whiny or need your head shrunk. The misconceptions surrounding counseling have been unraveling in recent years thanks to increased mental health awareness, but many students are still wary about setting up that first appointment. The following are some questions and myths surrounding school counseling, along with some information on how you can make a decision to see a therapist for yourself:
• “I’m not crazy, so why should I see a counselor?”: School therapists are equipped to handle everything from stress and relationship problems to self harm and alcoholism. In fact, stress and personal dilemmas are some of the most common reasons students attend counseling. You don’t need a psychiatric disorder to set up an appointment; just having a problem you want to discuss with a professional is reason enough.
• “What if people find out?”: First off, counseling appointments are strictly confidential. If you don’t want anyone to know you’re going to counseling, you are under no obligation to tell. Keeping your appointments private is your decision, but there’s no reason you should feel uncomfortable telling people you see a counselor. An increasing number of college students attend counseling, so there’s nothing abnormal about it. If anything, telling your friends may open up some really insightful, meaningful conversations.
• “What does a therapist do?”: The great thing about therapy is that it’s totally and completely about you. You decide what you need help with; your counselor makes suggestions about how to do so, but it’s ultimately your decision. Depending on your goals, a therapist may ask you questions, give you worksheets to complete, provide reading material, give you advice, even teach you breathing and relaxation exercises. Your counselor is there to provide you with tools you can use outside of her office, even beyond college.
• “I don’t have the time”: School counselors work with college students for a living; they understand you’re busy. They’re happy to work around your schedule, and it’s up to you how frequently or infrequently you want to set up appointments. Some students see a counselor more than once a week, others just when they have a problem they need to discuss, and still others find that a single appointment is enough.
• “I don’t have the money”: At most institutions, counseling is completely free. It’s important for students to take care of themselves mentally as well as academically, so it’s an expense colleges are more than happy to take on — which means there’s no reason you shouldn’t just set up an initial appointment and see where it takes you. Counseling isn’t for everyone, but if it’s free and available, why not give it a shot?