Tips for Graduate School #4: Have You Considered Seeing a Mental Health Professional?

I’ve been writing these tips as I go along, and I’ve noticed that many are interrelated. For example, this tip touches on the story in tip #1. I’m going to write more about how helpful it was to go to counseling while I was a grad student. To recap, when I was at my lowest mentally I was encouraged to seek counseling to put my mind back on the right track. Along with some other therapies, I was able to come back stronger than before and also graduate along the way. While it took a crisis to get me started towards getting professional help, I am suggesting that it may be a good idea to preemptively see a counselor.

Here is why you should check out your school’s hopefully-free counseling/mental health services.

  • It’s good to get an informed and impartial evaluation of yourself. Many of you are in the sciences so you appreciate the value of objectivity. However, concerning your personal life, objectivity is hard to obtain. All of your friends, family, and coworkers have their own judgements (good or bad) of you so these people won’t be able to see you impartially. If you want the best assessment of you as a person, you have to move outside your social circle and meet with someone who will be the scientist to your data.
  • You also don’t have a fair view of yourself. Here is the paradox: you trust your inner voice because, hey, it’s you! The problem is that your inner voice is not inherently right. Like the rest of you, it needs training to do be the best at it’s job and your inner voice’s job is to keep the rest of you going. If you’re like most people, your inner voice didn’t do the training, but now it acts like it owns the place. A counselor will help give your mind the training it needs to do its job. You’ll learn that your thinking process is not the only one that is out there, and you’ll learn better ways to treat yourself.
  • While in TV shows and movies, it seems like seeing a counselor involves only listing the bad things in your life, in real life you get to share your victories as well as your defeats. As counseling continues, you get to recount the little achievements you’ve made in getting a better sense of self, and both you and your counselor will be happy for you!

Give this suggestion some thought. If you happen to be assigned to a counselor you don’t get along with, ask to be transferred to somebody else. Remember though that you may face some hard truths, but just as your counselor is trained to show them to you, he/she is also trained to help you resolve the issues that are holding you back.

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