As exciting as starting college can be, there are also a lot of pressures on college students that can lead to stress and mental health challenges. In fact, one Healthy Minds study found that more than 60 percent of college students surveyed met the criteria for at least one mental health diagnosis.

The good news? More college campuses are offering comprehensive mental and behavioral health resources in the forms of counseling and therapy. Students preparing for college and those already facing the academic pressures of a college curriculum have many reasons to consider scheduling a therapy session.

The Growing Need for Therapy in College

So, why are today's college students dealing with mental health struggles more than previous generations? Many factors may come into play here, starting with the simple fact that talking about mental health has become less stigmatized. As a result, students who may have tried to sweep their problems under the rug now feel comfortable disclosing their struggles to friends, loved ones, and mental health professionals.

Consider, too, that more college students are working their way through school. Recent estimates suggest that 43 percent of full-time students and 81 percent of part-time students are working while enrolled in school. Unfortunately, the added stress and time commitment involved with working while in school can negatively impact a student's mental health.

The combination of working,  college life pressures and social media stress to portray the "perfect" college lifestyle, and trying to ace every exam and class results in unrealistic expectations and pressures. This leads to increased stress in college, anxiety disorders, and even depression among students.

So, what exactly does a college student stand to gain from therapy? Ultimately, this will boil down to what the student wants to work on—but there are five key benefits to therapy for college students worth noting.

Benefit 1: Provides a Safe Space for Expression

First and foremost, a therapist's office serves as a safe and judgment-free space for college students to express themselves and share their thoughts and feelings. All too often, college students have a hard time expressing themselves because they fear judgment or ridicule. As a result, they bottle up their emotions to the detriment of their mental health.

By seeking therapy, college students can rest assured that they will have an outlet to express themselves freely in a safe place. This can make all the difference in a student's outlook.

Benefit 2: Offers Coping Strategies and Tools

Many students face significant mental health problems for the first time in college. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles can be difficult (or even impossible) to deal with without proper help.

Communicating these struggles with an experienced and knowledgeable therapist can help college students develop the coping strategies and tools they need to overcome their mental health challenges and receive proper treatment.

From guided imagery and relaxation techniques to mindfulness exercises and cognitive-behavioral therapy, there are many methods that college students can explore with their therapist. Best of all, these strategies are completely personalized for the student based on their specific needs.

Benefit 3: Reduces Feelings of Isolation

When students start college (especially those fresh out of high school), they often find themselves away from their family, friends, and loved ones for the first time in their lives. Some may have trouble making new friends or fitting in, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Not having close friends to talk to about their problems can also contribute to mental health struggles, creating a dangerous cycle that can become worse over time.

With regular therapy sessions, college students can reduce feelings of isolation by having a reliable listening ear available to them. Likewise, therapy can help those struggling with making new friends enhance their social abilities. For example, a student suffering from social anxiety can tackle this problem head-on and learn some useful strategies for meeting new people and making friends with confidence. Therapy can also foster a better sense of self-acceptance and self-esteem that can make it easier for students to build new, healthy relationships.

Benefit 4: Helps in Navigating Major Life Transitions

College is undoubtedly a major life transition for any student. Not only are many college students living away from home for the first time, but this is often the first experience people have with living on their own and being responsible for their own choices. This sudden and newfound sense of independence is exciting, but it can also be stressful and lead to feelings of anxiety and worry.

Of course, even during a student's time in college, additional life transitions may occur. New friendships and relationships may be forged or come to an end, or there may be a death or other loss within a student's family. Any time there is a major life change or event, emotions may run high, and mental health may suffer as a result.

By having a therapist to speak with during these major life transitions, college students can get the support they need to build their resilience and get through even the most challenging of times.

Benefit 5: Boosts Academic Performance and Concentration

Many college students suffering from mental health issues will also have trouble concentrating, among other problems with their academic performance. Students with depression, for example, may have a hard time getting out of bed, let alone making it to class and participating.

By seeking therapy, students can get the professional help they need with mental health challenges that may be affecting their ability to focus and perform well in school. Meanwhile, students can gain valuable skills that can help them better focus, study, and manage their time, which can all, in turn, have a positive impact on their studies.

How to Seek Therapy

If you're a college student interested in starting therapy, be sure to take advantage of the resources available to you. Remember, you don't need to be struggling to reap the benefits of therapy. By connecting with a therapist, you can work on strengthening your mental health while focusing on your personal growth.

On the other hand, if you are struggling, working with a therapist can help you find the emotional support you need while exploring stress relief techniques and other strategies to help you thrive.

Start by exploring the mental health resources that may be available through your school. These days, many colleges and universities offer counseling, therapy, and other mental health resources on campus and online. From there, take some time to explore your options when it comes to therapists, understanding that not all therapists will be the right fit for you.

Before your first therapy appointment, write down any symptoms you may be experiencing so you can discuss them with your provider. It is also a good idea to write down a list of the things you'd like to get out of therapy, whether it be resilience building, mindfulness exercises, relaxation techniques, or other strategies to help you.

Learn More, Today

As you can see, there are many benefits that college students can enjoy when they attend therapy or counseling sessions. From having a safe space to express their emotions to better navigating major life transitions, therapy for students is almost always worth exploring. If you're a college student, be sure to explore the mental health resources available through your school and take advantage of them.

Likewise, if you're interested in the science and practices behind therapy and mental health, you might consider pursuing a career in psychology yourself. At the University of Minnesota, we're proud to offer an online Bachelor of Applied Science in Psychology that can prepare you for a successful career in behavioral health, crisis services, human resources, rehabilitation, and more.

Learn more about degree offerings available through the University of Minnesota Online by getting in touch—or start your online application today.

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