If you’ve thought about reaching out for support from your counseling center, you’re not alone. In a recent survey for our campaign with MTV, over 25% of students say they’ve thought about seeking help for stress or an emotional issue. Sometimes taking that first step and making an appointment can be intimidating. There may be some uncertainty about what actually happens when you see a counselor. Here’s a brief list of what you can expect along with how to make the most of your counseling experience:
• For your first session at the counseling center, you’ll typically be asked to arrive about 15 minutes before your appointment to fill out some paperwork. Usually this includes a short personal questionnaire and a sheet describing the school’s counseling policy.
• The first appointment is called the intake appointment. The goal of this appointment is to find out your concerns and figure out an effective way to help you. This first session may last longer than your regular appointments but your center will let you know the specifics. During this time, you’ll discuss your current concerns and personal history. The counselor will ask why you’re coming to the center and what you hope to gain (i.e., your goals). These are good points to think about before coming to the appointment.
• Next, you and the counselor will discuss different options to address your problems and help you feel better. For instance, together you might decide you need to make certain lifestyle changes or work together to identify better ways of dealing with stress or anxiety. You may decide to start treatment at the counseling center, participate in group therapy or the counselor might give you a referral to see a therapist outside of campus.
• Counseling centers vary among college campuses, but most offer brief or short-term therapy, so they’ll see you for about eight sessions each academic year. Ask your counselor the number of sessions your center typically provides.
• All centers have a cancellation policy. If you can’t make an appointment, be sure to contact the center at least 24 hours beforehand. Some will allow you to cancel the day of an appointment, while others ask that you pay a fee if you don’t.
• Most counseling centers provide information about their policies and other details on their school’s Web site, so don’t hesitate to read the information there.