Therapy. The word alone conjures up images of a chaise lounge and a shrink. It's the center of jokes about a mildly inconvenient event. It's for people with "worse issues," or people that can "afford the luxury." Therapy is something we talk about, but don't necessarily understand. Seeking therapy can feel daunting, especially with all the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding it. Seeking therapy in college is a whole different beast entirely, but it is wholly possible.
I feel like I have someone on my side for once."
Allison* recently moved to Manhattan after spending her whole life in the same town. She had been to therapy before, but had stopped going when she felt that the worse parts of her anxiety and depression were starting to ebb. She noticed that, after moving, those parts that had seemed dormant were coming back.
"I tried to act like it was fine. It was something that just talking to my friends here or back home wouldn't fix, so I kept quiet about it," Allison admits. "I felt like I had no one to talk to that would really understand."
Calling her therapist from back home didn't really seem like a viable option, as there wasn't a time that both of them could talk.
"I found out my school offers free sessions with licensed therapists because my friend told me that she was going. I made an appointment and they had me fill out a sheet, and I got to sit down for a quick session with one of the therapists to see if they were the right fit for me."
Many colleges offer various kinds of counselling or therapy for their students at wellness centers or in specific departments licensed to provide therapy and support. So why don't more people take the opportunity?
"Asking for help can be really intimidating," says Allison, "and going to strangers, especially adults, and asking them to help you with these really serious problems can seem so genuinely scary. It's hard to reach out, but that's why they're there. They care so much, they want to make sure that you're doing okay. I feel like I have someone on my side for once."
When asked if she feels there is a stigma around therapy, Allison says, "Of course there is. We treat it like a joke or something that only people with disposable money can afford. We always think of the red velvet and talking about our weird subconscious issues, but therapy is so much more than that. The idea that it's where you end up when you accidentally walk in on your parents is really detrimental, and can turn people off from getting the help they need."
Another student, Michael*, decided to seek therapy from the school when he started feeling problems arise that he hadn't experienced before.
They knew that they might not be the right fit for everyone, so they work to find you someone who does."
"I was feeling panicky about everything, I felt like I was constantly on the verge of a breakdown," he says. "I asked around, I talked to other people who were going to therapy at school. I asked them if they liked their therapist, and how often they had sessions. I was really impressed at how dedicated the staff seemed."
So what if you feel that you don't click with your therapist? "I talked about this with the psychologist at the first meeting. They said they knew that they might not be the right fit for everyone, so they work to find you someone who does. They arrange meetings with other therapists and psychologists in the city based on your schedule and needs."
"It's important that you get help if you're struggling. You have support readily available to you, no matter what. It's scary to start something new and to open up to people, but it makes life so much easier," says Michael. "Seriously, it feels nice to know that you have someone that not only understands, but wants you to feel better," adds Allison.
The consensus? Therapy can seem like something scary, especially because of how the media has portrayed Freudian-style therapists. It can be difficult to take the first step, but resources are made available for a reason, and if you feel yourself slipping or overwhelmed, stop by your school's counselling department and have a quick chat with the therapists or professionals available. You are your own number one priority, so treat yourself that way. Get help if you need it, don't be afraid of making yourself vulnerable.
Other resources, if therapy really isn't for you:
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Emotional Listening Support: 1-800-932-4616
The Samaritans Crisis Hotline: 212-673-3000
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