No shame in seeking help

For as long as I could remember, I wanted a career that could help people. I wanted to help in the most undiluted, genuine way possible. I made it my mission to lend a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen to anyone who needed it. I chose to study psychology because of this, but little did I know I was giving people the help that I had been needing so desperately. 

At the beginning of this spring semester, my professor shared that she would award us 10 extra credit points after completing eight counseling sessions on or off-campus. Initially, I signed up because I figured I could talk eight times for one hour each time about stress or something minuscule and get easy extra credit. As time went on and I completed my sessions, I realized how much emotional turmoil I was actually hiding from.

Counseling is a tool that can help address an array of problems and should be used more by students. The counseling process can facilitate a deeper understanding of one’s feelings and allow people to trust themselves. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

From my personal experience with counseling and what I have studied so far, students should and frankly need to partake in counseling. This professional relationship offers resolutions. It has a developmental focus that helps people trust and understand themselves.

When people hear “counseling” or “psychotherapy,” they often think it’s you, lying on a couch, and some person holding a notepad writing down everything that is wrong with you. In reality, counseling is a much more dynamic process.

In the 1940s, American psychologist Carl Rogers formulated a psychodynamic theory that emphasizes the importance of a counselor’s empathic understanding and acceptance of a client’s internal frame of reference. Meaning that based on this specific theory, clients are helped with finding self-actualization and applying it over a scope of areas of struggle. They grow to explore inner choice through trust within themselves and in their counselor.

It is intended to empower people to improve their mental health, wellness and education. There are many branches of counseling and therapies that focus on specific problems, which makes this experience so customizable.

This goes to show that counseling is not as intimidating as it may seem. The counselor I was able to work with is a clinical mental health counseling master’s student at NMSU. She once told me each person has a finite counseling experience waiting for them. I feel there is still a stigma around counseling, but it is internal rather than societal now. A common saying among counselors is, “it’s not a problem unless it’s a problem.” People have a hard time admitting when they are not okay and don’t understand that they have the power to justify what is a problem to them and what is not.   

In a New York Times article published last month, Matt Richtel discusses the rise in depression, self-harm and suicide among American adolescents. After over nearly 18 months of speaking to adolescents and their families, doctors, therapists and experts, Richtel wrote, “In these articles, I heard grief, confusion and a desperate search for answers.”

Further into the article, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, Candice Odgers, said, “ … But there are these really important trends in anxiety, depression and suicide that stop us in our tracks.” Odgers also said, “We need to figure it out because it’s life or death for these kids.”

Adolescents and young adults who are struggling, no matter what the specific struggle is, need help. We were always warned of getting pregnant too young or drinking and driving, but no one taught us how dangerous psychological problems can be.

This is why more people should take advantage of the free counseling opportunities offered on campus and find the help that is provided off-campus as well. Counseling serves as a preventive approach and can become one of the main resources that can help with the mental health crisis.

The Counseling and Educational Psychology (CEP) Clinic offers free counseling for enrolled NMSU students. The CEP Clinic is a training clinic for students in the professions of counseling and psychology who are obtaining advanced degrees in the CEP Department at NMSU. They are supervised by a doctoral student supervisor and a licensed mental health professional. The Aggie Health and Wellness Center also provides various counseling services for NMSU students. There is also an on-call counselor who is available daily to assist with crises.

I was scared to start counseling after a conversation I had a few years ago when someone told me they wouldn’t trust a therapist who once needed a therapist. It made me question myself because how could I be there for someone when I wasn’t completely okay at several points in my life, and what if I continued to have moments like those? But I understand now that even therapists are human. By this logic, you wouldn’t see a doctor who has gotten sick before. It leaves no room for growth and demands a sense of perfection that simply does not exist.  

We truly owe it to ourselves to live freely and happily. There is no shame in admitting that in order to do so, we might need some help.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual.

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