For many students, heading to college is an exciting time. But with increased demands, navigating new independence, as well as pressures to perform academically and socially, it is not uncommon for students to experience some anxiety and depression at one point or another during their college career. In fact, a recent study found that 1 in 3 college students experience significant anxiety and depression.
Signs your college student may be dealing with anxiety and depression:
-Changes in mood
-Low energy and decreased involvement in previously enjoyed activities
-Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
If you’re concerned that your college student is experiencing any of these symptoms, you can talk to them about seeking a counselor. Many campuses do make it a priority to make mental health services known to their students, so ask if they already know where to reach out. It is likely that they do, but may need encouragement.
Where can I help my college student find a counselor?
1.) Start with asking the campus counseling service office for local recommendations. Most on-campus counseling centers only have the capacity for short-term counseling and will often refer out after a few sessions if ongoing counseling is recommended.
2.) If your student is in their home state, try checking with their primary care provider, who may have a list of local counselors.
3.) Many campuses have recently partnered with ThrivingCampus. This platform makes it easy to connect to off-campus mental health providers. You can search by which counselors are currently accepting new clients.
While you can certainly assist your student by offering to make the first contact with a counselor, it is important that they are involved in selecting a counselor that they feel is a good fit and aligns with personal preferences. It is not uncommon for me to receive initial contact from parents of college students. But I always ask if the request to set up an appointment has been “okayed’ by the student.
Telehealth or in-person counseling?
This is really a personal preference. Telehealth can be super convenient. However, if your student is in a dorm room setting, keep in mind that they’ll have to find privacy for a telehealth appointment.
Can my college student keep the same therapist when they return home for the summer?
That depends. If your student attends school in their home state, then yes, they continue to work with their counselor while on break. Counselors can legally only work with clients who are located in the same state in which they have their license. For example, I am licensed as a counselor in both Connecticut and Pennsylvania. This means that I would be able to continue to see a client (via telehealth) who is a CT resident and then moved to PA for college and vice versa. However, if the student went to school in Massachusetts, where I do not hold a license, then I would not be able to work with them via telehealth while they were away at school. This student would need to find a new counselor while at school in MA.
College years are ones of adjustment, change, new relationships, and self-discovery. Highs and lows are to be expected. A little extra support from a counselor, even if just for a brief period of time, can go a long way in helping to navigate these years and all the feelings that come with them!
If you are a parent of a college student, or a college student yourself and you would like more information on how to get started in counseling, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Ashley Hines Lunt, ATR-BC, LPC is a counselor based in Guilford, Connecticut where she provides both Art Therapy and talk therapy. She also provides telehealth to college students in Pennsylvania.