Does Counseling Work?
In a four year study of college students who received counseling at another university, 91% thought that their academic performance had improved following counseling, and 98% reported that counseling had assisted them to deal more effectively with their problems.
Source: Rickinson, B. (1998). The relationship between undergraduate student counseling and successful degree completion. Studies in Higher Education, 23, 95-102.
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How Counseling Helps
Counseling offers us the opportunity to identify the factors that contribute to difficulties and to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal and situational causes of those difficulties. Some of the most common issues for which students come to counseling include:
- Relationship Issues
- Situational Problems (e.g., Failing School, Financial Difficulties)
- Family Issues
- Developmental Issues (E.G., Separation from Parents, Identity Concerns)
- Gender Concerns
- Sexuality Concerns
- Academic Problems
- Career Uncertainty
- Recovering From Impact of Physical, Emotional or Sexual Abuse
- Physical Problems (E.G., Tension, Stomach Pains, Insomnia)
- Alcohol or Substance Abuse
- Eating Disorders &/or Body Image Issues
- Anxiety (E.G., Social, General, or Specific Phobias)
- Sleep Concerns (E.G.: Nightmares, Poor Sleep Habits, Sleeping Too Little or Too Much)
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But How Does Counseling Help?
It is therapeutic to talk about your concerns. Most of us have probably had the experience of relief after talking with a friend or family member about something we had been holding in. Usually our concerns seem more manageable when we talk about them with someone we trust. As we talk, our perspective on the problem often begins to change.
Talking with a counselor can also help us to:
- Pinpoint problems - and understand aspects of the problems that may be improved.
- Identify negative or problematic thinking patterns that contribute to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and to develop a more positive outlook.
- Explore learned thoughts and behaviors that create or maintain problems.
- Regain a sense of control and pleasure in life.
- Discover strengths you have and how to use them to grow stronger in other areas.
- Counseling goes beyond the obvious, and helps get us unstuck. It is often the case that we know what we should be doing to help us feel better, but can't seem to be able to do what we know we should. Counseling helps us work through the obstacles that keep us from doing what we know would be helpful.
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Myths About Counseling
- Counseling is a sign of weakness: Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes courage to acknowledge a problem or difficulty. Entering counseling is an important first step in resolving the problem.
- Counseling is only for people with serious emotional problems: Although counseling can be beneficial for people who do have serious emotional problems, it is also helpful for people with everyday concerns such as adjustment or phase of life issues.
- Counseling is advice giving: By the time many people come to counseling, they have had more advice than they can handle. Counseling operates from the premise that the counselor is knowledgeable about the change process, but that you are the expert on your life. In some ways counseling is like working with a coach. You do the work, but by working with someone who has training and experience with facilitating positive change, you are likely to work more effectively and see results more quickly.
- Counseling is a last resort: Most of us do not think that we have to experience a heart attack before we can see a doctor; it is OK to go if we merely have a sprained ankle. The same applies to counseling - you don't have to have the emotional equivalent of a heart attack to see a counselor. By working with a counselor you can often get back on track much faster and save yourself a lot of unnecessary distress.
- Counseling is not confidential: Mental health professionals must maintain confidentiality except as authorized or required by law. Exceptions to confidentiality include: situations wherein you are a physical threat to someone else or yourself; there is suspected harm being done to a child, elder adult, or disabled individual; a judge provides a court order requiring that we release your records. You will, of course, be notified if your counselor is required to share information in any of these instances. Please feel free to ask your counselor about confidentiality laws.
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