It is not unusual for students to feel anxious or afraid about participating in counseling. Students worry that it is a sign of weakness, dependence, or an ndication that something is seriously wrong with them. Hhowever, seeking counseling is never a defeat, and students do not need to be in active crisis or have a diagnosed mental health disorder to benefit from counseling services.
College is a time of growth and exploration, and at times, growth and exploration can be overwhelming, painful and frightening. College students are preparing for their future careers while learning how to be independent and adaptive adults at the same time. Sometimes college students need help sorting these experiences out, and sometimes college students need help coping with the stress of college life. Whatever the motivation to seek counseling, there is almost always a benefit to participating in the services we provide.
We believe knowing when to seek help is an indicator of personal wisdom and a healthy way to cope with the stress of life. Over the years, survey data indicates that students who use counseling services determine counseling as a positive, productive experience, and many students recommend counseling services to their friends.
Multicultural counseling and diversity
There are many ways in which people differ. Counseling services respects the diverse ways that we differ from one another, and we adhere to multicultural-sensitive practices. If any practice or material from counseling services appears insensitive or lacks context for a specific group, please email us or talk with us in person at Founders 206. Diversity is a core value of counseling at Augustana College, and we never want to remain static. When thinking about multicultural counseling, it is important to use the acronym ADDRESSING as a guide: Age and generational issues, Disability, Religion, Ethnicity, Social status, Sexual orientation, Indigenous heritage, National origin, and Gender.
What is counseling?
The American Counseling Association (ACA) defines counseling in its 20/20 Vision as “... a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.” Counseling provides a supportive environment in which students create solutions to problems and process ways to adapt to stress and change in a healthy and productive manner.
Counseling is a collaborative experience that involves active participation and continual feedback. The counseling process relies on a unique and open healing relationship. In fact, the therapeutic alliance between counselor and student is positively associated with gains in the counseling process (Ardito & Rabellino, 20111). As a result, the student’s own effort and initiative are fundamental to the process while the counselor acts as a skilled practitioner in helping the student identify and achieve desired changes.
Why students come to counseling
Students come for a variety of different concerns, but they typically are aware of a growing pattern of unsuccessful adaptions to their distress that is causing changes in their thinking, feeling, or behavior. Below is a list of different concerns that students come to counseling to seek relief from; however, this list is not exhaustive, and no concern is insignificant. We encourage all students dealing with distress to come to counseling services, as we offer a variety of different treatment delivery methods that ensure a match to the least intrusive treatment available.
- Academic performance
- Abuse experiences
- Alcohol/drug use
- Adjusting to campus life
- Death of a loved one/grieving losses
- Depression/mood swings
- Eating problems
- Family problems
- Low self-esteem
- Interpersonal conflicts
- Romantic relationship concerns
- Pain/chronic illness
- Stress/time management
- Self-injury behaviors
- Sexuality concerns
- Sexual assault
- Sleep problems
- Temper control
- Test anxiety
Decades of research demonstrate that individuals who participate in counseling therapy are better off than 80% of those who do not participate in counseling (Duncan, Miller, Wampold, & Hibble; 2010). Of course, counseling services offers a variety of different treatment delivery methods (see Counseling Process), but our main services continues to be individual and group therapy.
Individual therapy is often effective for students adjusting to stress or who have long-standing mental health disorders. Furthermore, studies have shown that more than half of college students who experience counseling in college perform better academically (Devi, Devaki, Madhavan, & Saikumar, 2013).
Group therapy often is effective for students struggling with forming a sense of identity, forming relationships, or balancing dependence with independence. Group therapy also is effective for students who want to learn interpersonal skills like healthy boundaries or self-awareness, as group therapy shows students they are not alone and allows them to witness their experience through the eyes of their peers. Group therapy relies on a willingness to actively participate, so drop-out rates can impact effectiveness; as a result, counseling services is careful to make sure participants of group therapy are committed to attending at least six sessions and are ready and open to change.2
According to the American Psychological Association, evidence-based practices in psychology focus on the best available research and combine it with clinical expertise, while making sure to integrate a client’s personal characteristics (culture, preferences, etc.) (APA, 2019).
Student mental health is important to us, so we ensure only interventions that have demonstrated effectiveness and relief for different mental health concerns. Specific evidence-based interventions that counseling services provide include cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and compassion-focused therapy.
We also provide psychoeducation on applied behavioral analysis and systematic desensitization.
1Ardito, R.B., & Rabellino, D. (2011). Therapeutic alliance and outcome of psychotherapy: Historical excursus, measurements, and prospects for research. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00270
2Devi, R.M.R., Devaki, P.R., Madhavan, M., & Saikumar, P. (2013). The effect of counseling on the academic performance of college students. Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, 7(6), 1086-1088.
Duncan, B., Miller, S., Wampold, B., & Hibble, M. (2010). The heart & soul of change: Delivering what works in therapy (2nd edition). Washington D.C.: APA.