Whether you’re struggling with the stresses of law school, suffering from depression or dealing with the vicissitudes of life, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. If you’re finding it difficult to cope, you should consider speaking a professional.
Most universities offer free counselling services to students and staff, and you may be surprised to learn that they’re often quite busy. Counselling conjures up images of a couch and endless questions like, “how did that make you feel?”, but it’s important to know what you’re in for.
I was initially scared to reach out, and I’m sure that there are many others who don’t seek help. For me, reaching out was intimidating. Although I knew I had depression, I felt ashamed. I had no real reason to be depressed: everything was going right, but I still felt an overwhelming sadness. I avoided social situations and began skipping classes, opting to stay at home in bed. After weeks of hiding away, talking to someone was long overdue. I was embarrassed about ‘seeing a shrink’ and unsure of what to expect.
In my first session, I burst into tears. It was daunting at first, but became easier and more comfortable as I progressed. You’ll often start out with a regular conversation, chatting about anything and everything. Remember: your counsellor has seen it all before, and it’s confidential, so don’t be afraid to share what’s really worrying you. (And don’t worry, they have tissues!)
So what can you expect from counselling? Someone who will listen, even if you ramble, and someone who won’t judge. You can also expect counselling to be educational. Talking about my condition helped me to understand what I was going through, which in turn helped me get better. You might learn about coping mechanisms for stressful situations, and methods of relaxation. You may also find that you come to think about things differently and more positively.
If you’re struggling to explain what’s happening with you to your family and friends, your counsellor may help you better communicate with the people who matter most. You’ll also discuss ways to approach situations and what to avoid, as well as possible outcomes.
You can also expect an advocate. Although university can be stressful and demanding, there are circumstances where special considerations can be granted. Your counsellor can chat to your teachers as well as university officials. He or she can assist you with managing your study load and may assist with applications for extensions and deferred examinations. They can also provide a referral to another professional who’ll be able to assist further, if needed.
Whether it takes one session or several, ultimately, your counsellor will help you see that things aren’t so daunting after all. You just have to take the first step in seeking help. You won’t be ashamed, but thankful that you did. I only wish I’d reached out sooner!
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