The staff of the Counseling Center can help with a wide variety of personal difficulties, such as self-esteem, depression, anxiety, sexual and/or gender identity, relationship conflicts, eating disorders, and growing up in a dysfunctional family.
Personal counseling within a supportive professional environment can help you understand yourself better and gain healthy coping strategies. Couples counseling is also offered in some circumstances, if both partners are currently-enrolled students.
What You Should Know about Counseling and Psychotherapy
You have made the first (and most important) step in finding out about counseling and psychotherapy. Whether you came to the Counseling Center as a result of your own decision to seek help, or because someone else told you it might be helpful, it is likely that you have a lot of questions and mixed feelings about the counseling process. Many students have questions and concerns, such as “What should I talk about in my therapy sessions?”, “How long will I have to come for counseling?” and “When will I see improvement?” The purpose of this information is to help answer some of your questions – maybe even questions you didn’t know you had! First of all, let’s confront some common myths about counseling and psychotherapy:
||Therapy is too expensive for me.
||That’s true and not true! While the usual rate for a therapy hour is $75 to $125, the GSU Counseling Center provides this service free of charge to full-time students at Georgia Southern University.
||You have to be “crazy” to go for therapy.
||Only a small percentage of our clients have had psychotic experiences. Most clients come to work through some problem areas of their life. Actually, instead of being “crazy”, it is smart to utilize the resources which are available to you.
||Going to therapy is a sign of weakness.
||Actually, it takes a great deal of emotional strength to confront problem areas, seek help, and take responsibility for your life.
||The counselor will tell me what to do and how to “fix” my problems.
||Counseling is not a “quick fix” cure to your problems. The counselor is there to help you explore your feelings, thoughts, and concerns, to examine your options, and to assist you in achieving the goals you have set.
||The counselor cannot understand me unless he/she has had similar experiences or is of the same background.
||Counselors are trained to be sensitive to and respectful of individual differences, including the specific concerns of students with regard to gender, racial/ethnic, cultural, religious, age, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic issues. Counselors seek to learn from each client how their unique experiences have impacted their lives.
||All you do is sit in the counselor’s office and tell them your problems.
||While talking about your problems is a part of the therapy process, it is not “all you do”. For counseling to be effective, you will need to think about the issues discussed in therapy in between your counseling sessions and will need to follow through on making the changes you decide you want or need to make to reach your goals. In addition, your counselor may request that you do certain activities outside of your sessions (e.g., reading, journaling, recording your thoughts or feelings, practicing certain exercises) in order to make the most out of your therapy experience.
Now, let’s move on and address the “who?”, “what?”, “when?”, and “how long?” questions you may have about counseling and psychotherapy:
Who will I see?
All of the psychologists and counselors at the Counseling Center have received either a doctoral or master’s degree in a mental health field. You also may see a practicum student or pre-doctoral intern, who is being supervised by one of our staff clinicians. Generally, the person you see for your first session at the Counseling Center will continue to work with you if individual or couple’s therapy is recommended. However, if for whatever reason you would prefer to switch to another counselor after your first session, you have every right to make this request!
What will I do in counseling?
During (or shortly after) your first appointment, your counselor will provide some recommendations regarding what will likely be helpful in addressing your specific concerns. Recommendations may include any or all of the following: individual counseling, couple’s counseling, group counseling, participation in a workshop, medication, and/or referral to another agency on or off campus.
If individual or couple’s counseling is recommended, you can expect to spend the first few sessions discussing the concerns that bring you to therapy and formulating goals that you will work on for the remainder of therapy. During this time, your counselor also will be attempting to get to know you better by asking you questions about your life here at college, your family background, your relationships, and other areas of your life.
Often times, group counseling is the best treatment option for students – particularly if you are dealing with interpersonal issues or relationship concerns, or if you could benefit from peer support. If group counseling is recommended, you will likely meet with the group counselor individually for a “screening session” first so that you can learn more about the group and so that the counselor can learn more about you. A workshop is similar to a group, but typically involves a specific focus (e.g., Anxiety Management) and generally meets for a specified number of sessions.
If you are in the midst of a crisis when you first come to the Counseling Center, time also will be spent during the first few sessions on helping you cope with the crisis. From this point, what you do in your counseling sessions will vary from talking about what is contributing to your problems and exploring potential solutions, to role plays, relaxation training, discussing assigned readings, reviewing homework assignments, etc…
Although what you do in session may change over time, your counselor will discuss each component of therapy with you before deciding how to progress. After some time in individual or couple’s counseling, other treatment recommendations may be made, such as joining a group or participating in a workshop. When you have met many or all of your therapy goals, you and your counselor will make a decision about ending therapy. The last few sessions are a time to review your progress, make future plans, and discuss your experiences with counseling.
When will my counseling sessions take place?
Individual and couple’s therapy sessions typically last for 45-50 minutes and may be scheduled weekly, bi-weekly, or less frequently, depending on the nature of your presenting concerns, what stage you are at in the therapy process, and how busy the Counseling Center is (the mid-term and end of semester time periods tend to be busiest). Groups and workshops also meet weekly and generally last for 60-90 minutes. You should plan on coming early or on-time for your scheduled appointments! Regular and on-time attendance of counseling sessions is critical for ensuring that you reach your therapy goals. In addition, if you miss more than 3 scheduled appointments (of any type) per semester, your services may be terminated!
When will I start to feel better?
Many people report that counseling is helpful even with the first session. This may be due to feeling good about having made a decision to get help or the relief that comes from being able to discuss your concerns with someone who is understanding and non-judgmental. Long-lasting relief from problems comes more gradually and is the result of making changes in your life, relationships, thoughts, and behavior. There is no definitive time schedule for these improvements. However, you should share with your counselor if you have noticed no improvement after working in therapy for several months or more. The good news is that research has repeatedly demonstrated that therapy works, as long as clients take an active part in the counseling process.
How long will I be in counseling?
Obviously, this is ultimately up to you. However, depending on your therapy goals, brief counseling (from 3-5 sessions) or more long-term counseling (up to 16 sessions per year, for one or more academic years) may be more effective. Regardless of how long you participate in therapy, your counselor will revisit your therapy goals with you on a regular basis and you will decide together when it makes sense to end therapy.
Hopefully, this information has addressed many of your questions and concerns about counseling and psychotherapy. If you still have questions or concerns (or if this information has raised new ones), please feel free to discuss them further with your counselor.
Last updated: 7/2/2018