The counseling center is a fairly big resource on most college campuses. Unfortunately, there are many negative or untrue myths/stigmas associated with it. Maybe your background as a first generation / limited-income college student leads you to feel that you have more to prove. Maybe you think that asking for help makes it seem like you’re not strong enough. Maybe you’ve heard myths that made you think twice about going to a counselor. Whatever the case may be, everyone can benefit from counseling. The following are some of the most common beliefs that stop people from seeking professional help. Read on to learn how unfounded most of them are.
The Counseling Center is Only for People with Real Problems
One of the main stigmas associated with counseling is that it’s for people who have reached the point of a breakdown. That is not true. Counselors help you with your mental health, no matter how good or bad you may be feeling (See Ask Dr. P. | Should I see a psychologist / counselor? to find out more). A campus counseling center can help you with mental illnesses, balancing school and life, choosing a future path, adjusting to college, improving yourself, or really any problem you are struggling with in the present. No problem is too big or small. These counseling centers are meant for helping college students, so they will not turn you away if you have a problem of any kind.
Also, there is nothing wrong with going if nothing is wrong. Sometimes you need an outsider’s point of view to make sure you are on the right track, or to confirm that you’re not actually moments away from burning out. Similar to going to the doctor for a physical check up, you could go to the counseling center for a mental check up. Often, people ignore mental health in favor of physical health because the symptoms are more obvious for the latter. However, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Taking the time to take care of your mind reflects the importance of holistic wellness.
People Will Find Out if I Go to the Counseling Center
Not to worry. Counselors have a strict confidentiality rule. It’s required for their job. They can lose their license if they betray their clients’ confidence. Anything you say during your session will be kept between you and your counselor. If you don’t want people back home or on campus to know about you going to the counseling center, they never will. Not unless you want to share that information.
While the thought of people seeing you coming out of the counseling center may terrify you, you may also be surprised by just how many students seek a counselor’s help on campus. College students share similar struggles; they have to choose a future path, adjust to a new lifestyle, balance school and life, etc. While not all the struggles are the same, there are definitely some common threads.
Going to the Counseling Center Would Be too Expensive
Most colleges offer sessions for free or a limited number of sessions free. Often they are paid for by your tuition or as a part of your health insurance, especially if you are using your college’s insurance. Since you already paid for them, you might as well take advantage of them.
The Counselor Won’t Understand My Problem
Before you see a counselor, the counseling center will have you fill out paperwork and meet an intake counselor to get a sense of your problem and what kind of help you need (See Ask Dr. P. | What can I expect when I see a counselor for the first time? for more information). Afterwards, you will be matched with a counselor who best fits your problem. If you are still worried that your counselor will not understand you because they are not a first generation college graduate or from a limited-income background, you can request someone from a background similar to yours. Even if they are not first generation or limited-income, all counselors are trained professionals. They know how to listen and they know what to say in order to help you approach your problem from all angles. Do know this: there is no need to stay with a counselor if you feel like they are not helpful. If that’s the case, find someone else. Similar to how it can take a few tries before you find a medical doctor you like and trust, the same applies for counselors.
I’m Bothering the Counselor / My Problem Isn’t That Big of a Deal
Counselors are busy people and have a whole campus to serve. Maybe you feel like your problems see small compared to someone who might actually have a “real mental illness” and needs a counselor. That’s not true. These counselors are paid to help you. Utilizing them is not a waste of your time or theirs. To them, every person’s problem has equal weight, and they should strive to make that apparent during the counseling session.
If you need help, there’s no real reason not to see a counselor on campus. A counselor is there to help you figure out your problem and guide you to a solution. Transitioning into college and making it through can be a tough chapter in one’s life. If you think you need help, don’t let the negative stereotypes about counselors stop you. Sometimes outside help is exactly what you need.
About the author…
Anitta Machanickal is the Managing Editor of propellercollective.org and a recent graduate of Davidson College, where she earned a BA in English. She’s a first gen and limited-income graduate who focused most of her college years helping young, limited-income students and children of immigrants, and continues this through Propeller Collective.