A few thoughts to College bound students (and their Parents) from a former University Counseling Center Psychotherapist

I started working as a Staff Psychotherapist at the University Counseling Center at Azusa Pacific University  when my daughter was 5 and my son was a one-year old. My wife and I can’t believe that next year he’ll be heading off to a college campus, which is where many of you, as a student or an accompanying parent, will be headed in a few days or weeks.

From 2000 – 2004 I was privileged to “go back to college” where I had the awesome opportunity to meet with and provide psychotherapeutic services with students. I look back on those years with great fondness and in light of the fact that you and eventually my son will soon be on a university campus, I wanted to share a few ideas about how the University Counseling Center (“UCC”; most campuses have these services) could be of service to you over the next 4 years.

  1. First, they could help with your transition into your new life at college. While some students experience fewer problems with making this transition onto the college campus, others may experience momentary bouts of homesickness, challenges with new roommates, anxiety and pressure connected to classes, athletics or peers. Our University Counseling Center (“UCC”) helped students with these adjustments by providing a listening ear in addition to offering helpful on or off campus resources to help the student to succeed.
  2. When crises occurred in our country (Sep. 11, 2001 or the suicide of a student) the UCC assisted the student body by providing immediate information, counsel and assistance to any student who was impacted by these unexpected and tragic events. The assistance was provided confidentially at the UCC or via process groups with Professors and Students in their classrooms.
  3. Students who were concerned about the mental health of their roommate met with me at the UCC and we discussed how to safely and effectively communicate their concern with her about her eating and exercising habits, which seemed to point toward an Eating Disorder. Assisting you and your fellow students in your endeavor to help each other succeed in college is a goal of the Therapists at the counseling centers.
  4. In addition, providing an early intervention with students who are experiencing severe psychological and personality challenges (Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders) helped some students access the immediate psychiatric care they needed, even though some may need to withdraw from the University to improve their personal condition.
  5. Getting a leg up on specific treatment issues which tend to be common to students or athletes is something UCC counselors address. Some of these treatment areas are: Anxiety and/or panic attacks, depressed moods or clinical depression, dating, relationship or loneliness issues, sexual abuse or addiction, or other alcohol or drug challenges, procrastination, perfectionism or career development). No issue is insignificant if it impacts your ability to have a great college experience!
  6. In light of those treatment issues, a really helpful resource that I directed students toward is the Unabridged Student Counseling Virtual Pamphlet collection connected to the Counseling Center Village. Another incredible resource for students, parents and counselors is ULifeline, which also provides helpful information about your mental health. Finally, SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association) provides extensive information that could prove to be helpful to you as well. Please check these out!
  7. The services at UCC’s are broad and tend to be cost effective. The services we provided at UCC were “low to no cost” to the student, who received state of the art treatment from research minded clinicians in the field of behavioral and mental health. Some universities also provide supervised opportunities for Doctoral level Psychology students (I was one of those!) who among other things, could deliver psychological testing to help the student to know his or her strengths and areas for improvement.
  8. Many of the Counselors have specialty areas that are vital if not critical to the life of students and the campus at large. My specialty in the area of sexual addiction and sexual health opened the door to speaking in the Men’s Chapel on two occasions, which prompted some students to make their way to the UCC to look at their own sexual behavior. Equally, that same specialty area led to an opportunity to talk during Rape Awareness Week (at Concordia University). It also prompted me to write a 9 week self-guided booklet called Passion and Purpose: Discussing our relationships and sexuality on the Christian College Campus, as a way to empower and enlighten students as they considered their relationships and their sexuality. Although I fell short in seeing a Sophomore level class developed (“Speaking of Sexuality”) to further help the students explore issues surrounding sexuality while receiving credit for it, I was honored to speak with my wife about our experiences as an interracial couple raising bi-racial children at the Common Day of Learning.  Finally, I was honored to partner with Cathleen Mastan, another Staff Therapist at UCC to develop a pre-marital workshop for students called Covenant Cornerstones: What a marriage before God means, and to serve on the Imago Dei (Image of Christ) Diversity Training Team, which provided Diversity training to the President and Academic cabinets, Faculty and Student body on the campus. These are just a few examples of how I had the opportunity to support students and others from my position at UCC and I’m sure the Staff Therapists at your UCC could assist you in your personal and professional development via a number of service areas and formats on campus!
  9. UCC’s provide safe and confidential opportunities for you to speak your heart about anything thats on your heart and mind. Although I don’t ever recall any hostility directed toward students who are LGBTQ on our campus, I was heartened to provide a safe place (and be known as a safe person) for students to vulnerably open up, talk and be affirmed about their gender identity and gender expression. When it came to diversity, we practiced what we preached. All of the Therapists were safe people who manifested the love of God in order to understand, communicate, connect and participate in the learning and possibly healing processes of the students on our campus.
  10. Finally, your identity, values, personal, professional and psychological development is important to your UCC Therapists. Dr. Erik Erikson, a “neo-Freudian” Psychologist who studied and wrote about the psychosocial development of people realized that the challenges and opportunities that accompany the stages of development that you’re going though  (Identity vs. Role Confusion, Age 12 – 20; and Intimacy vs. Isolation, Age 21 – 35) are critical. Erickson wrote that the major tasks to be developed during these time periods in your life are the ability to make were “positive role” choices based on your values, experiences, rules or expectations (that you have been exposed to from your parents or caregivers), then, as an adult, to learn what intimacy is, what it will take to establish intimacy, enjoy intimacy and maintain intimacy, especially as evidenced in your relationships. Your counselors at your UCC are committed to assist you in these salient areas of your growth while also helping you to have an enjoyable and successful collegiate experience. The Therapists at the UCC are there if you need them; make sure you avail yourself of their assistance when you need it!

Below are some photos of the University Counseling Center and staff at Azusa Pacific University during my tenure there.

Thanks for visiting and please visit the other blogs written by Dr Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful. I welcome your comments below or via email and your favorites, your retweets and your “+1’s” if you have a brief moment and find the information helpful, please pass along a rating or review of my book “Daily Bread for Life, Vol. 1″ in the Amazon bookstore. Again, it is my desire to provide the very best info for your consideration.


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