Feeling under the weather? Need someone to talk to besides your parents and friends? Think you might have anxiety or depression? There are many reasons to go to therapy in college, whether it’s making an appointment at your university counseling center, attending a support group, or trying virtual counseling. And if it’s your first time going to therapy, it can definitely be daunting to meet with a professional. To help, I spoke with licensed psychologists and counselors about why seeking therapy in college might be a great step for you.
First, you don’t need a reason
Whether you’re having an issue with your roommate or you believe you might be struggling with anxiety, going to therapy can help. With that in mind, you should never feel that your concerns are too small, too big, or not relevant for therapy! The truth is, you don’t even need a reason to go to therapy — it’s common for people to go simply for general health and wellness.
“There is no qualification for needing or wanting therapy services,” says Jordan Brown, LPC, a licensed therapist who provides support for college women through her private practice, No Worries Wellness. She tells Her Campus, “You can reach out for help anytime. Even if you don’t feel like you are struggling or ‘need’ to try therapy, it can be a helpful outlet to have additional support from a compassionate, non-judgmental person and learn skills that you can carry with you throughout your college years and beyond.”
Therapy can help you adjust to college life
It’s no secret that college can be a major adjustment. Between academics, your social circles, and simply trying to juggle your responsibilities, you may find that you need a bit of extra support sometimes — and that’s okay!
Jose Ramirez, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says that therapy can be a valuable resource for any college student who is adjusting to a new life chapter. He tells Her Campus, “College is a time of self-exploration, and for many students, it is the first time they are living away from home. With this newfound independence comes a lot of adjustment, and sometimes it can be difficult to cope.”
Ramirez says that a therapist can help you learn and practice tangible coping skills to use in your everyday life, which over the long-term, can help boost your overall wellness. “Whether it’s adjusting to college life, relationship issues, school stress, substance use, or mental health concerns, therapy is an invaluable resource for college students,” Ramirez tells Her Campus.
Brown, who often helps clients who are struggling with anxiety, agrees. “College comes with a lot of new experiences that can be difficult to navigate, such as increased freedom, dating, substance use, and more,” she tells Her Campus. “All of this can be overwhelming to figure out on your own, which is why it can be very helpful to seek help from a therapist.”
You can find the “style” of therapy that fits your needs
Typically, every university has a few types of treatment options to choose from, depending on your specific needs and concerns. For example, the University of California at Berkeley offers an emergency same-day counseling option, along with longer-term counseling to help address academics, personal growth, and career management. Your college or university may also offer support groups, which can be a great on-campus resource.
Jaclyn Wolfman, PhD, a clinical psychologist based in Brookline, Massachusetts, shares that there are many options for therapy based on your unique situation and goals. She tells Her Campus, “Seeing an individual therapist or attending group therapy can be beneficial for gaining support and having someone (or a group of people) to encourage you to make choices that will help you reach your goals. Certain types of therapy — like dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) — will focus on helping you learn and practice skills for managing strong emotions, asking for what you want, becoming kinder to yourself, stopping any risky behaviors, clarifying your values, and more.”
While it can be intimidating to attend a support group in college, it can also end up being a powerful reminder that you’re not alone.
Therapy is a confidential resource
Whether you seek therapy at the counseling center or off-campus, therapists are required to keep anything discussed during your treatment strictly confidential. The exception to this involves critical situations involving suicidal ideation — in which case most professionals are required to report to school authorities if and when someone is in danger.
Brown tells Her Campus, “[Therapy] can be a helpful outlet for issues that you may be facing as a college student. Therapy is a safe place to talk about things you might not talk about with anyone else in your life.” Although it can be intimidating to start therapy, remember, college counseling centers are intended to be safe spaces, so don’t be afraid to share what’s really bothering you.
you can find a therapist who’s right for you
If you’re concerned about finding the right “therapist match,” you are not alone! It can take a few tries to find someone who you feel is a good fit. “I encourage students to meet with a few therapists before choosing one,” Dr. Wolfman tells Her Campus. “That way students can choose a therapist they feel comfortable with and they believe understands their difficulties and will share their goals for therapy.”
If you’re still feeling nervous (which makes sense!), Dr. Wolfman says to take the leap and try to attend just one introductory therapy session. “See if you can get yourself to at least one session,” she tells Her Campus. “You can always decide to stop or switch therapists if it isn’t a good fit for you.”
When you’re ready, there are many ways to approach finding a therapist. Brown tells Her Campus, “Try asking a trusted friend or visiting the Student Life center on campus to get pointed in the right direction. You can also seek a therapist in your area — who doesn’t work on campus — through websites like PsychologyToday, TherapyDen, or ThrivingCampus.” Apart from your university counseling center, you can also check out resources like TalkSpace, BetterHelp, or use the American Psychological Association (APA) locator to find a therapist near you.
Therapy is an act of self-care
“It’s courageous to ask for help,” says Dr. Wolfman, who specializes in facilitating group therapy for college students and young adults. Her groups focus on topics like anxiety, depression, perfectionism, trauma, and more — all of which are key challenges for college students today. She encourages any college students who are curious about trying therapy to give it a go. “Therapy can make a huge difference in how you feel about yourself, your relationships, and your future,” she tells Her Campus.
Ramirez, who specializes in addressing anxiety, depression, LGBTQ+ topics, and mood disorders at The Psychology Group, tells Her Campus that the hardest part of going to therapy is getting started; but it can be a meaningful step toward caring for your well-being. He says, “I encourage students to not avoid seeking help or trying to put a Band-Aid on their mental health. The hardest part about starting therapy is making the appointment. Once you’re in the office, the therapist will do everything they can to make you feel comfortable, seen, and heard.”
therapy can be a helpful starting point
While visiting your college counseling center can be super helpful, they are (unfortunately) not designed to be your only resource throughout your college career. Many schools, like Boston University and University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, operate on a short-term model, meaning you can only see a therapist for a semester before being referred to someone off-campus. At UC Berkeley, you can get up to eight therapy sessions per year. But don’t worry — if you’re in need of long-term help, your counseling center can refer you to a private practice or mental health professional outside of the university. Some schools, such as San Jose State University, have included a mental health fee into their tuition so even a transfer comes at no cost; but be sure to check with your school about their processes.
In the end, it’s impossible to know whether therapy can be the solution to your concerns — but it can’t hurt, right? Know that it is a therapist’s job to help you. And even if what you are dealing with is more severe than a college counseling center is prepared to treat, your school is the first and closest step to finding a qualified professional who you can foster a long-term relationship with. Take some advice from these experts and give therapy a try — you never know what it might lead to.
Jaclyn Wolfman, PhD – www.jaclynwolfman.com
Jordan Brown, MS, LPC, NCC – www.noworrieswellness.org
Jose Ramirez, LMHC – thepsychologygroup.com/jose-ramirez-lmhc