Self Care - You can't pour from an empty cup
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Self Care

Does your school offer the help you need when times get tough?

After observing thousands of students and helping hundreds launch into adulthood, the patterns are the same. Our young people today are struggling with depression and anxiety. Perhaps these are brought on by the transitions or perhaps from family issues at home. Either way, I encourage each student to be an advocate for themselves. 

Today we have a guest blogger who has a wealth of information to offer.  She is a faculty member at a top ranked university.

Self Care by Dr. Julie Sutton

Self Care.  You’ve seen it everywhere #selfcare is usually trending on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  But what does it mean?  This is what Wikipedia has to say: In health care, self-care is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated. Some place self-care is on a continuum with health care providers at the opposite end to self-care. In modern medicine, preventive medicine aligns most closely with self-care.

If you’re an introvert (someone who re-charges best when given time to be alone) self-care might look like making time to read a book quietly, or running solo.  If you’re an extrovert then, in contrast, you re-charge when around people.  These students may need to study in groups, or make time to meet a friend for coffee for self-care.  Practicing good self-care make us all better humans, and if you’re a college student, it can make you a more successful one.

What if you’re a student (in either group) who also practices self-care by talking to a therapist or counselor? It is important that you work to seamlessly transition this care when you leave for college. Most universities (4 year colleges that grant at least Bachelor’s degrees) have some sort of mental health service, but the offerings can vary widely. I’ve attended or worked at schools where the only offering was crisis counseling.  At others, students could meet with a therapist working toward licensure (these are people who hold Master’s degrees in a variety of topics, have been accepted by the state’s licensing board for Professional Counselors, but need to complete a large number of counseling hours while under the supervision of a licensed mentor) for a maximum number of visits per semester.  At the institution where I currently teach, students can meet with therapists and counselors up to 4 times per semester, or make an appointment with a psychiatrist.  However, they also offer a long list of group therapies.  Yet another complication is that many University Health Services may not accept your private insurance. The therapy sessions may be covered in your tuition (through a “Health Services” fee) but if you exhaust the number of visits it may be a long wait until the next semester.  

Confused yet?  It is very confusing to determine what services you have access to, especially if your list of institutions is long. Here are some suggestions that I’ve seen work for students.  When making your list of applications, get online and look at the Mental Health services for each one.  Keep the information in a spreadsheet so you don’t confuse schools.  

Here are some questions to ask:  

Is there a maximum number of visits I’m allowed and how often does this start over? 

 Are the visits covered by my fees or do you take insurance?  

What is the ratio of counselors that are in training vs already fully licensed?  What is the wait list time to make my first appointment?  

What group therapy sessions do you offer?

 Are these closed? “Closed” means that there is a sign-up deadline and then no one else may join the group.  

This helps establish trust among the group members.  

Let’s say that your dream school doesn’t have the ideal mental health options for you; now what?  

Ask for a list of off-campus providers that they refer students to.  

Find several that are on your insurance and call to see if you can interview them over the phone, or when you go for orientation.  

Will you have transportation? If not, are there some providers that have offices accessible by public transportation? Some offices have waits to first-time clients that are over 6 weeks, you don’t want to move to college only to find out that you then need to wait a while to establish your routine of self-care.  

Dr. Julie Sutton is a faculty member at a large urban University in the South. She is a lover of puzzles, patterns, boardgames and math. Dr. Sutton's passion (other than making Mathematics accessible for all) includes working with first-year students and helping them become self-reliant, confident and successful as they transition to college life.  She teaches mostly freshman level classes and enjoys seeing the innovation and grit that is prevalent among her students.

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