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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

I went into counseling not knowing what I would get out of it or how it could really benefit me. This might sound naïve, but it’s easy to convince ourselves that we’ve thought through everything and don’t need anyone else to explain what’s going on. In reality, just about everyone can benefit from therapy, even in a totally stress-free life. 

That does not mean everyone will benefit equally, or that my experience will be the same as yours. But there’s not one type of person counseling fits best, or there’s not a threshold for trauma you need to pass before counseling becomes appropriate. 

There is a massive stigma that comes with receiving therapy⁠ — that people only receive it if they have “serious problems,” or some debilitating mental illness. That could be the case, but therapy can be a wonderful tool for maintaining sound mental health outside times of crisis. Yes, therapy can assist you in recovering from illnesses, but a well-matched counselor can also help you in realms of self-knowledge, self-care, self-control and self-motivation, which apply to any aspect of life. 

In the past, I personally used the excuse that if I signed up for counseling, I would be taking a spot from someone who potentially needs it more. This is a dangerous line of thinking, because if more people thought this way, then many people who would benefit from therapy would go without it. There’s also something to be said about the importance of treating minor issues before they can become major issues. There is no line in the sand that makes your pain, or lack thereof, a barrier to entry. 

With all that said, you may have already made a visit to a counselor and found that the experience was not for you — and that’s alright! Because of the extremely personal nature of counseling sessions, it’s important to find someone whom you feel comfortable with and who can make a positive impact on you. A particular therapist may lack the training in the area needed. It can be emotionally exhausting to make the effort for a counseling visit only to have it not work out. However, if someone feels like they really need it, I wouldn’t want that to stop them from trying again in the future. 

Whether you’re returning to therapy or going for the first time, some great thoughts to keep in mind during your visit are: Does the therapist understand me, does their input reduce stress and do their sessions make me more reflective? If you can say yes to all of these, it's generally a sign that therapy is going well. 

On the other hand, self-evaluation and introspection are just as important. Were you honest about your feelings and struggles? Were you actively listening and reflecting on a therapist’s message? Counseling services are a two-way street, and questions like these can help ensure that you get the most from your experience. 

Make sure to prioritize your mental health with that extra time you may have.

Throughout this piece, I have used therapy and counseling interchangeably but there is a formalized difference involving certain licenses and degree requirements. 

Matthew Diaz is the Hispanic Caucus Leader in Student Government


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