With a increased general awareness of the importance of mental and emotional health, there has been a push for universities to offer better resources for struggling students. VCU students struggling with mental or emotional health issues (or even students just experiencing a rough patch) are lucky enough to have to have the services of the University Counseling Center conveniently located on the second floor of the Student Commons. There, they offer a variety of resources and tools for students to evaluate their wellbeing with the comfort of a trained, professional staff. Listed below are five ways that you can get the most out of the University Counseling Services at VCU.
1. Online Self-Help
One of the best things about the University Counseling Services is that they acknowledge that not all students need a high-level of mental health care at all times. In order to help students that may not need to make a trip all the way in to the offices, the department has compiled a list of links to documents and websites that are useful for finding self-care techniques and coping skills. These can be found under the “Self-Help” tab on the University Counseling Services website. Some of the links included are to printable coloring pages, stress relief pamphlets, and a list of tips about how to come out to your parents. While not every resource will be applicable to you, there are so many to choose from, so you are bound to find something that will work for you.
2. Individual Crisis Management
For students seeking professional guidance for their issues- acute or ongoing- the University Counseling Center offers a staff of over 20 licensed psychologists and therapists. Students can schedule an appointment online from the comfort of their own room if they’d like to plan advance. However, the center also allows walk-ins during all operating hours; if you encounter a crisis, you can enter the Counseling Center and sign in on a computer in the lobby. The next available therapist will see you on the spot and you will be able to continue to work with them one-on-one for up to seven sessions. The staff at the University Counseling Center is very knowledgable and can do a lot for students in terms of processing and education. They also have access to large databases of external mental health workers for students that require care longer than seven sessions.
3. Group Therapy
The University Counseling Services also feature several therapeutic support groups. Examples include the Rainbow Group- an LGBTQ+ support group, Recharged- a group anxiety workshop, and the Interpersonal Process Group- a group for students to gather and process stressful moments they encounter throughout their week. All of the information disclosed and discussed in group therapy is completely confidential, so these groups are a great environment to speak freely and safely. You can decide your own level of emotional intimacy that you want to share with the group, so (with sensitivity to others) you can tell as much or as little as you want. The additional support from peers in your group is a great boost, and they help ground you in remembering that you are not alone in your struggles.
For larger groups or events, the University Counseling Services offer workshops and presentations on a variety of topics. Depending on the audience or the purpose of the event, the workshops can focus on wellness improvement, such as stress management, communication skills, coping with anxiety, time management, alcohol/drug abuse, understanding depression, relationship/dating issues, and several others. On a smaller scale, some professors utilize these workshops as parts of their classes. However, on a bigger scale, larger organizations throughout the university like Ram Camp and RA training use these workshops as a fundamental part of their programming. The Counseling Center asks that reservations be made two weeks in advance to the event, but is otherwise very flexible and attentive in the planning.
5. Services for International Students
VCU has a large population of international students, and the University Counseling Center acknowledges that studying abroad can be stressful for students. In order to address this struggle, the UCS has staff members that are trained and experienced in various languages and cultural practices. This eases the burden that some international students feel about expressing their emotions despite language barriers. The University Counseling Center is a safe space for international students to be expressive and worry-free.
Many students at VCU are unaware of the assortment of resources that the University Counseling Services have to offer. Each person/student/patient/client is different and requires an individualized plan of care, and the University Counseling Center does a wonderful job of catering to an expansive variety of needs. It is important for all students of VCU, emotionally “stable” or not, to remember this asset offered to them (that their tuition pays for!) in case they ever need it.