Feeling lonely. The traffic on Wedington Drive. Anxiety. What I ate for breakfast. Seemingly unrelated topics, but all connected by a common thread: these are things I’ve talked about with my therapist.
When I was younger, I had a clear mental picture of what a therapist was: someone with a clipboard, asking you how you feel as you recline on a leather sofa. That’s what I absorbed from TV and books and movies. People went to therapy for the big stuff. They were getting a divorce or hearing voices, grieving or getting bullied. Therapy wasn’t for people with good lives and small problems like me.
Over the years, my perception of therapy has grown with me. I eventually came to understand that there is not one category of person who can’t reap the benefits of therapy. From celebrities to college kids, senior citizens to second graders — every individual in every demographic needs someone to talk to sometimes. It’s human nature.
I started seeing a therapist last semester, for one hour every other week, talking about whatever I want. I personally like to use therapy as a kind of “thought dump,” where I empty my head of all the things that are weighing me down and sort them out. I almost always leave feeling more clear-minded and confident.
For college students — a group going through many significant changes in rapid succession — therapy can be a very useful tool. Psychotherapy is designed to “enhance quality of life, promote adaptive functioning in work/school and relationships, [and] increase the likelihood of making healthy life choices,” according to a resolution adopted by the American Psychological Association. Adapting to new situations and making choices for the future are certainly things college students have to do every day, so why not try to do them well?
Of course, that’s easier said than done. It doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable or natural to start going to therapy. Talking to a stranger about your personal business might feel very weird at first. Once you push through the initial awkwardness, though, it can be very rewarding to learn more about yourself and how to navigate the world in a way that fits your needs.
For UA students, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at the Pat Walker Health Center offers low-cost counseling and psychotherapy, group therapy, psychiatry, outreach and prevention programs, emergency services and more. Many health insurance plans also cover clinical counseling services. Sites like BetterHelp and Talkspace offer therapy services completely online.
Whether you’re struggling with overwhelming and difficult problems or just need someone impartial to talk to, therapy can help. It’s long past time to remove the stigma of seeking mental healthcare. Seeing a therapist is like going to the doctor — you take care of your body, and you should take care of your mind, too.