Many students experience stressors upon entering college or at various points in their college careers. Transition to new environments and the responsibilities of adulthood may cause anxiety and self-doubt. Students may be struggling with issues of identity or with insecurity regarding their future career choice. Interpersonal relationships may present challenges or conflict. Academic struggles may be new or ongoing. Students sometimes experience major losses while at college, such as the death of a family member or friend, or changes in family structure while they are away at college. Such issues may challenge the students’ coping abilities and can result in anxiety, depression, isolation, and academic difficulty.

Truman State’s University Counseling is staffed by mental health professionals trained to help students develop coping skills, enabling them to master developmental tasks and manage their personal struggles. Having an objective person to talk to in a confidential setting can help the student restore balance in life and maximize success as a student and development as an individuals.

What Can I Expect from Counseling and What is Expected of Me?

Students who have not been to a counselor before may have unrealistic expectations of the counseling process. Some may assume that counseling is similar to meeting with a physician or other medical provider who follows the medical model. The medical model is based on a number of assumptions that are useful in medical settings but that vary from the different paradigm under which counselors function.

The following chart outlines a few of the basic differences between the medical model and the therapeutic counseling paradigm:


              Medical Model            Counseling Paradigm
  • Symptoms are caused by a disease
  • Symptoms may be caused by a combination of factors
  • The physician/medical provider is the expert who can identify the disease
  • Clients have control over many of the factors and, therefore, can and do “heal themselves.”  The counselor may be a partner in this process.
  • The job of the patient is to give an accurate account of the symptoms to the medical provider
  • Clients are an active participant in both identifying the problems and finding solutions
  • The medical provider will take the information, provide a diagnosis, and prescribe a treatment
  • Many approaches can be helpful in assisting the healing process but some approaches may work better than others depending on the client, their symptoms, and their circumstance
  • The patient is responsible for complying with the treatment regimen
  • Ultimate healing occurs as a result of the client applying what they have learned in the counseling to their life outside of the counseling office
  • The treatment operates on the disease and induces change somewhat independent of the patient beyond compliance with the treatment regimen
  • The role of the counselor is to provide a safe place for dialogue and self-reflection to identify problem thoughts, emotions, and behaviors; provide materials and resources to assist with creating solutions; and to guide clients in developing skills when needed
  • The healing change happens independently of the relationship between the patient and the physician
  • Relationships of trust and openness are critical to the process of self-discovery and implementing strategies to achieve change
(Adapted from: Bohart, A.C. & Tallman, K. (1999). How clients make therapy work. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.)

Those clients who succeed in counseling have realistic expectations of their counselor, the process, and the significant role they will play in their own healing. Successful clients also understand that they will need to communicate with their counselor regarding what they find helpful and unhelpful during the counseling process. You can make the most of your counseling experience by being open and honest with your counselor and with yourself even when it is painful. You will get more out of your counseling experience if you continue to work outside of sessions. This work may include further reflection on your thoughts, emotions and behavior; journaling; completing counseling homework assignments; trying new approaches in problematic situations; enlisting appropriate help from others; and avoiding negative habits and behaviors that interfere with your progress.