Navigating health decisions on your own can be a stressful experience for many students. However, taking time to research your options and understand the process can help you make informed decisions.
Here are some questions to ask if…
Meeting with a mental health professional for the first time can be daunting. Asking yourself these questions can help you better understand your current concerns and create goals if you decide to move forward with seeking therapy.
What isn’t working right now?
Ask yourself what isn’t working in your life right now. Is there something specific you’d like to address or change? For instance, you may feel depressed or unmotivated, you may have difficulty socializing or making friends, or you may feel overwhelmed by stress. Sharing these insights with a therapist can help both of you work toward the same goal and create an effective treatment plan together.
If things were better, how would I know?
As you start to identify your concerns, think about what ‘better’ might look like for you. For instance, if you are struggling with depression, ‘better’ may mean reducing or eliminating self-harm behaviors, having more motivation to get up in the morning or enjoying your hobbies again. It’s important to remember that ‘better’ can look different for everyone. It’s okay if the goals you have for yourself don’t necessarily match the expectations or goals that others have set.
What expectations do I have for a therapist?
Therapy can look different for everyone. Think through what expectations you have regarding a potential therapist. Here are some examples of thing you may want to consider:
Taking time to think about your expectations can help you find the right therapist when the time comes.
Finding a good therapist can be challenging, especially if you’re trying to navigate insurance coverage, increased demand for services or other barriers. When choosing a therapist, it’s most important to find someone who is a good fit. Look for someone who you feel comfortable opening up to. It’s not unusual for clients to “shop around” and meet with a couple of different therapists in order to find the best fit. Many therapists offer free phone consultations to figure out if their services are right for you. As you start to connect with therapists, here are some questions to ask.
What is your style or method of therapy?
Different therapists may use different techniques. It’s important to ask potential therapists about their style of therapy and how they might approach your specific concerns in order to determine if they are a good fit.
Have you worked with similar clients or concerns before?
This question can help you better understand your therapist’s experience. You can ask them about how they’ve treated previous clients, what the outcomes were and how you think their skills would apply to your specific situation. Understanding how a therapist has worked with other clients can also give you insight into what you can expect from your sessions with them.
How do you handle urgent situations?
As you look for a therapist, it’s important to discuss boundaries around contact. For instance, you can ask therapists how they typically handle urgent situations and if it’s okay to contact them outside of scheduled sessions. You may also want to discuss preferred modes of contact (phone, email, text, etc.). These types of questions will give you a better understanding of how you can address crisis situations or follow up with a therapist if you have additional questions or concerns.
Whether you’ve been in therapy before or are currently attending sessions, these questions can help you make the most of your time.
I don’t feel like things are improving. Do I need to be patient or is there something different we can try that might be more helpful?
If you feel like things aren’t improving or you’re not making meaningful progress, it may be time to discuss your options with your therapist. Ask them if it’s a matter of practicing patience or if there are other methods that may be more helpful. These questions will help you get a better understanding of your current progress and expectations. It can also help to discuss your experiences with your therapist, so they can better understand where you are now, where you want to be and what adjustments you can make together.
How will I know when I’m done with therapy?
For many people, therapy is not an ongoing, lifelong experience. You may attend therapy for a short or long period of time before stopping. You may also come back to therapy to work through existing concerns or to address new ones. Talking with your therapist about your expectations and discussing when it might be appropriate to stop therapy can help you get a better understanding of when it may be appropriate to say goodbye or take a break. Remember that it’s okay to come back to therapy if you want support in the future.
Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers a variety of resources that can help you connect with a mental health provider or explore your options.
Develop new coping skills to manage stress, anxiety and painful emotions. Workshops are covered by student mental health fees and are available throughout the week.
Join a therapy group to find confidential support and work through your concerns with the help of peers. Group therapy is covered by student mental health fees.
Screening appointments provide students with the opportunity to meet virtually with a CAPS provider to help assess treatment needs and explore options.
Let’s Talk is a free service where CU Boulder students can check in via telehealth or in person for an informal and confidential consultation with a counselor. No appointment is necessary.
Let’s Talk Psychiatry is a free service for students who are currently not taking medications to manage their mental health but would like to obtain general information about medications or psychiatric care.