9 Ways Counseling Can Help College Students
You always looked forward to going to college and all of the freedom it would provide. You had this picture in your head of finding the perfect group of friends (perhaps through a sport, club or Greek life), confidently making choices for yourself without parents around to tell you what to do and of course taking classes in subjects that you actually care about. But now that you are here, reality isn’t matching up with what you expected.
College is a unique period in a person’s life. You are still establishing your own identity in the midst of pressure put on you by family, yourself and society at large to choose a future profession, learn to navigate adult relationships and begin to independently meet your own needs. Counseling can give you a safe space to explore your feelings and help you overcome the challenges you face in college. Here are just a few of the many concerns counseling may be. able to help you with:
Trauma and Abuse Recovery
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, nearly 2/3 of college students are victims of sexual harassment while 20-25% of female college students and 15% of male college students report they were forced to have sex at some time during their college experience; yet more than 90% of student sexual assault victims never formally report the assault. However, sexual violence isn’t the only type of trauma a person can experience while a student. Maybe it’s a serious car accident, experiencing discrimination, a physically or verbally abusive relationship or the traumatic loss of a loved one that haunts you. It’s also the case that sometimes a trauma one experienced in childhood seems to come back and begin haunting you again when you are going through the transitions that happen during your college career. You can find information about how counseling may be able to help you recover from trauma or after an abusive relationship here.
Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Affirmation
According to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, “Demographers suggest there may be nearly 1 million LGBT students and more than 160,000 faculty and staff members at universities and colleges across the nation. With society quickly becoming more accepting, those numbers will trend higher as more students, faculty members, and staff members voluntarily reveal they are LGBT.” Despite these high numbers, LGBT students still face many unique challenges. First, it is sometimes a process to come to terms with one’s own identity. Then even with loving friends and family, it can be scary to come out not knowing how people may respond. Most notably, there is still discrimination of the LGBT population on college campuses across the United States every single day. This can be particularly difficult for those who are not cis gender such as those who identify as transgender or gender fluid. While some college campuses offer strong support for this community such as the LGBTQ Resource Center at MU, individual counseling can help you explore your individual feelings on a deeper level.
Aspire Counseling is a safe, affirming space. Our therapists advocate for LGBT rights and provide excellent counseling services to individuals of all sexual orientations and genders. Aspire Counseling believes that all individuals have a right to live their life being true to themselves and are honored when given the opportunity to be part of someone’s journey as they face the unique challenges of being an LGBT college student.
Grief and Loss
Loss hurts at any time in your life, but I’ve found that grief has a unique flavor when a young adult is away at college when a family member back home dies. I’ve sat with college students who are grieving far from the family members who share their feelings and memories of the loved one. Grief is painful and can make you feel alone even when you’re surrounded by supportive friends. In the midst of grief it may be hard to enjoy anything going on around you and you may even begin to question your future as a whole. Learn more about how counseling can help you cope with your loss here.
According to the National Institute on Mental Health, depression is the most common health problem among college students. You may think of depression as just sadness and wonder why you can’t “just get over it.” The truth is that depression is an illness that includes chemical changes in your brain. Depression makes everything a little harder and in college students often leads to things like missing class, slipping grades and problems with friends. Here’s an article with 10 tips for coping with depression in college. If you are worried that you might be depressed, I encourage you to consider counseling. Treatment does work. Things do get better and you can get unstuck. It’s normal to need a little extra support in the form of counseling when you are depressed just like you would need medical treatment for a broken arm.
In high school you knew who you were: A football player. A member of the band. A Youth Group leader. An AP student. The lead in the school play. Regardless of what it was that gave you purpose and energy in high school, that piece of you is now missing. Most of the time what we identified as in high school doesn’t transition with us to college and this may leave you feeling lost of confused about who you are. If you’re not a ______, then who are you and what value do you bring to the world? Counseling can be very effective in helping you search for your sense of self and help you find new ways to feel connected on your campus and in the community.
Whether you’re left feeling alone after a breakup, arguing with your roommates or feel smothered by your parents it can help to have someone objective to talk to about your situation and to help you learn new skills and new ways of interacting with others so you can get your needs met. Problems with roommates, friends, parents and romantic partners are very common as you transition into young adulthood. You are still learning what you want in your interactions with others, who you are as a person and how to be independent. It’s ok to ask for help whether that’s talking to a counselor, a trusted friend, a spiritual leader or a parent.
There is no doubt that college life is stressful! Even if nothing else is going on, you will have the stress of making class deadlines, getting good grades and passing exams. Add to that financial stresses, relationships stressors, deciding on a future direction for your life and perhaps even applying to grad schools or post college jobs and of course you are stressed! Even if your stress is normal, you may want to improve your ability to cope with stress by practicing mindfulness or just having someone to process your emotions with.
While everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, it’s not unusual for a person to develop an anxiety disorder that gets in their way of making the most of their college experience. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains, “An estimated 44 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. Only about one-third of those suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment, even though the disorders are highly treatable.” If anxiety is starting to get in the way of your ability to be successful in school or to enjoy the moment, there are treatments that will help you learn to cope with that feeling of panic and face your fears. Anxiety doesn’t have to hold you back.
Uncertainty About the Future
Maybe you feel overwhelmed each time you think about the future. Perhaps you always thought you’d go to med school but your pre-med classes didn’t feel like a fit at all. Or maybe you’ve dreamed of being a lawyer but were didn’t get into law school and now don’t know what to do when you graduate in a couple months. Or you may be a new college student trying to settle on a major and overwhelmed by the choices. The pressure to choose a path can feel crushing at times. Perhaps you graduate this year and are just worried about what comes next. It’s ok and even normal to struggle with these big decisions. Our trained mental health therapists can help you find a way to not get stuck in that worry so you can keep moving forward.
Counseling in Columbia, MO
As a Counseling Center in Columbia, MO, our therapists treat young adults from all over the Mid Missouri area. We have clients who attend the University of Missouri, Columbia College and Stephens here in town as well as Moberly Area Community College, Westminster and William Woods nearby. Our therapists provide counseling to college students who are facing the issues listed above and many others as well. If you’d like to talk to one of us today and find out how counseling might be able to help with your unique situation either send us an e-mail or call us at 573-328-2288. We will be happy to talk a little about what you’re looking for and match you with a therapist who can help you make the most of your college experience
Jessica Tappana, LCSW is the founder, director and a therapist at Aspire Counseling in Columbia, MO. She began Aspire Counseling in May 2017 to provide mental health services to individuals in the Mid Missouri area looking for healing from trauma, grief, anxiety and overwhelming stress. Each of our therapist regularly sees college students. Jessica values providing clients with a safe space that promotes healing and only brings on therapists who share her vision of providing counseling by getting to know you as an individual and then providing treatments that work. If you’re interested in beginning your healing journey, you will find a safe and inviting space in our office.