Find balance with Counseling and Psychological Services

by Kellie Ferguson, Contributor

Beginning a new semester can be stressful. Maybe you’re new to college, new to San Diego State’s campus or new to California. Maybe everything isn’t turning out the way you expected. Maybe your new roommate sucks, and you haven’t made any close friends. It might seem like you are the only person struggling to adapt to this new environment, but you’re wrong.

“This is a common experience that freshmen and transfer students are having,” Assistant Director and Intern Coordinator at the SDSU Counseling and Psychological Services center Doug Thomson said.

“A good part of the time, these students are isolated. They look around and see smiling, happy faces, and they are thinking to themselves, ‘I’m the only person going through this,’ That makes it even worse, because now they feel like something’s wrong with them,” Thomson said. “But this is the transitional stress of being a freshman or transfer student, and it passes with time.”

Located in the Calpulli Center, Counseling and Psychological Services provides options to help new students cope with this transitional phase. One-on-one therapy sessions, group workshops and spaces where a student can escape the pressures of college life are all available in the Counseling and Psychological Services office. One of these group workshops, Cultivating Optimal Personal Experience, helps students learn the skills necessary to better manage stress.

The meetings are two sessions long, and times are listed online

for the fall 2014 semester. COPE is just one of the many free workshops available to students. Others include Healthy Emotional Living, Living With Loss, and even a meditation workshop. The meditation workshop can be helpful in calming overwhelmed students, and can also help improve concentration and focus.

“Meditation is not just a way to manage stress, but one of the things it is also very helpful with is attention difficulties,” Thomson said. “If a student is having difficulty focusing and concentrating, meditation is just a great way to help a person enhance their ability to do that.”

Therapists are also working with biofeedback techniques to help students cope with overwhelming feelings.

“This technique is more tailored towards academic stress,” Thomson said. “It’s designed to teach students the breathing techniques to help them to learn how to calm their own physiology down.”

This program is done in individual meetings between a therapist and student, and is especially helpful for anyone who deals with test anxiety or any other overwhelming feelings of panic when dealing with academic stressors.

Services offered extend beyond just helping students who are struggling to transition to a new environment. Crisis intervention services are offered for students who are experiencing high levels of emotional distress, such as suicidal feelings, physical or sexual abuse, and loss. An online assessment is available at Counseling and Psychological Services  website.

This assessment asks questions to determine if a student’s feelings and symptoms are abnormal and suggests resources for getting help and support. The staff of Counseling and Psychological Services is fairly small, so most of the therapy and workshops they offer are on a short-term basis.

However, if a student or therapist feels longer-term treatments are necessary for improvement, the student can receive referrals based on insurance and financial capability. The website offers other tools to assist students, including hotline numbers, times and dates for workshops and programs, and tips for helping someone who has recently experienced trauma in their life.