There’s no doubt that the past year and a half has brought on a number of big changes, from the COVID-19 pandemic to campus closures and more. If you’re a college student dealing with stress and ongoing changes, chances are, you might be looking at your to-do list thinking, “I can’t do this with everything I’m dealing with in my life!” Whether it’s a breakup or the shift to in-person learning after a year of distancing, big changes can feel overwhelming, and it may be time to ask for support. Here’s how therapy can help you handle big life changes, according to an expert.
Therapy is not one-size-fits-all
Kristy Donaldson, PhD, a licensed professional counselor based in Texas, tells Her Campus that it may be time to seek support if you’ve recently dealt with a big life change. In her current practice, she works with people of all ages and walks of life (therapy doesn’t discriminate!), and notes that many people seek help to work through transitions in life. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Donaldson notes that more people are willing to seek therapy than usual, and that it can be a great way to integrate “a third party who has professional training” into your life.
If you’ve never been to therapy before, know that the experience is unique to you. “Everyone is unique, like a fingerprint,” Dr. Donaldson tells Her Campus. “I use different modalities for everyone. It’s important to find the right method for you — therapy is far from one-size-fits-all!”
Therapists provide an unbiased perspective
While your besties may be a great support system for you in college, friends are inherently biased, so it’s important to find a neutral party to help you address a big life change. If you recently went through a breakup, moved to a new city, or you’re returning to campus, for example, you might benefit from a third party professional who can guide you things — someone who is as separated from the event as much as possible — who can look at everything you discuss objectively. A good therapist will listen carefully to your situation, ask questions that enable you to reflect on it, and help empower you in the process — not tell you what they think you “should” do.
You can find a therapist “match” that works for you
Finding a therapist at first can be intimidating, but if you’re dealing with a big life change, know that you can always research and set up a consultation with a few therapists before committing to one. Remember, you can always move on if the person isn’t a good fit or what you’re looking for — some even call it “therapy speed dating,” since it’s all about finding the right match. Different professionals have unique experiences, backgrounds, and varying specialties, and it’s okay if the first one – or even few – you try aren’t the right fit for you. Regardless of your situation, look for someone who is a licensed psychologist, mental health counselor, social work professional, or another qualified professional who can provide quality care. Psychology Today can be a great place to start looking.
Therapy can help you stay flexible and open to change
“People who have a desire to change can move mountains,” Dr. Donaldson tells Her Campus. And the truth is, even if you’ve gone through a difficult life change recently, better days are just around the corner! Seeking help from a trained therapist and challenging yourself to stay open-minded and flexible can help you understand your current situation — what is (or isn’t!) working out, and what coping mechanisms can help you embrace the future in stride.
Therapy can help you build long-term resilience
Going through a big life change is already tough to handle, and getting the courage to seek help might feel even tougher when you’re in the thick of it. However, it’s important to trust the process, despite the uncertainty and discomfort you may be feeling. Dr. Donaldson tells Her Campus, “[Therapy] gets messy before it gets cleaned up,” meaning that growth doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. When dealing with a big life change, your healing is a marathon, not a sprint — so give yourself the time you need to reflect, process, and work through whatever you need.
Whether you’re struggling with a relationship conflict, dealing with family drama, or feeling anxious about returning to campus this fall, seeking professional help is one of the most courageous things you can do. Therapists like Dr. Donaldson can help guide you through your challenges and help you feel more empowered to face uncertainty. Remember, no matter what you’re dealing with, you don’t go through your life changes alone.
Kristy Donaldson, PhD