Your health is the most important thing

For some, the word “counseling” makes them flinch. The thought of sitting alone with a stranger and talking about one’s feelings seems more like a judgment session than a way to relieve stress.

I used to feel the same way. I always thought that going to counseling was like actively planning to take time out of my day to reveal some of my deepest thoughts to someone. Then, the counselor would say how my mental state is beyond all hope, but that I should definitely keep coming because my instability is amusing for them to watch. But after some personal bouts with depression, I eventually ended up going to the University Counseling Center (UCC).

It was a last-ditch effort that ended up being my emotional salvation.

The UCC offers students “brief individual and couples counseling as well as a variety of groups and workshops,” according to Joel Sagawa, assistant director and clinical services director of the UCC.

“In situations where a student is in crisis, we provide same-day appointments with a crisis counselor, as well as phone counseling for students in crisis after hours,” Sagawa added.

Last year, the UCC served 800 students using the brief counseling model in order to serve a greater number of students.

“On average, [this consists of] four to six sessions,” Sagawa said. “By utilizing this model, we are able to accommodate requests for services more quickly. This year, we are able to get people in for their initial appointment usually within the week or the week after.”

To ensure that students are guided to a counselor that best suits their needs, the University Counseling Center has students go through a referral process.

“[My] referral went really well. I ended up hitting it off with the therapist [at UCC] and I was with her for almost a year,” APU alumna Amanda Eckersall said.

It’s not uncommon for people to have negative thoughts and assumptions about counseling. People are concerned about appearing weak, having the sessions prove uneventful or even that their personal information will somehow be disclosed to the university at large.

“Many of these preconceptions were instilled in [people] at a very young age and cause them to feel embarrassed or anxious about seeking help,” Sagawa said.

“The first time I went [to the UCC] I was very hesitant,” junior sociology major Zurai Hechavarria said. “With my family, it’s extremely looked down upon to go to counseling.”

Sagawa addressed these feelings with key reassuring facts. “The confidentiality of counseling records is protected by law,” he said. “There [is also] a large body of research showing that those who seek counseling get better, and counseling requires the courage to overcome fear as opposed to accepting weakness of defeat.”

The services at the University Counseling Center are absolutely free.

“I would extremely recommend [going to the UCC],” Hechavarria said. “It’s really worth it. Don’t give up when you go to the first counselor; if they say something that disagrees with you, try someone else. Don’t give up on that program, because there are people that will help you.”

Taking the first step and making an appointment is probably the most painful and nerve-racking, but I know firsthand that it is the most important step. If you know anyone who is currently going through a rough patch, please encourage him or her to seek out a counselor.

During my personal experience at UCC, I immediately felt welcomed and cared for, and that feeling continued for the remainder of my sessions. The staff was more than willing to work with me from wherever I was coming from, emotionally and mentally, and they always did their best to make sure that I felt safe in my sessions.

The UCC is open on Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call 626-815-2109.