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Talk it out: The science behind therapy and how it can help you

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New class expectations, new living situations, and navigating newfound independence can give us all the feels—from super psyched to super stressed. Even if you’re loving your student life, dealing with all the stressors that come with college can be a lot to handle. According to experts, the best time to handle that stress is now. “If we don’t take care of our mental health, we may not be able to reach our goals, maintain good relationships, and function well in day-to-day situations,” says Dr. Chrissy Salley, a psychologist in New York who works with students of all ages. “Taking care of mental health is one of the best things someone can do.”

Now really is the time to start tuning into your mental health—the majority of mental health issues appear to begin between the ages of 14 and 24, according to a review of the World Health Organization World Mental Health surveys and other research (Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 2007). But help is available. Along with methods like mindfulness and meditation, talking to a therapist (such as a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist) can be a super-effective way to manage any mental health issue you may be facing or just a way to get extra support during times of stress, challenge, celebration, or change.

There’s a ton of research on how effective therapy really is—a 2015 meta-analysis of 15 studies of college students with depression found that outcomes were nearly 90 percent better for those who received therapeutic treatment than for those in control groups, most of whom received no treatment (Depression and Anxiety).

One of the most common and effective therapies is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a short-term, goal-oriented therapy where a pro helps you find practical ways to deal with specific problems.

Girl with "believe in your dream" written on her hand

The goal of CBT is to help you change or reframe certain thought processes—the idea is that by changing your attitude about something, you can change your behaviors. For example, if you think something like, “I’m terrible at chemistry, so I know I’m going to fail this test—there’s no use studying,” you probably won’t ace your test. CBT can help you shift your thinking to something more like, “I know chemistry is really hard for me, but studying will help me do better.”

And it works. There’s strong evidence that this therapeutic technique can help you handle just about anything you might have going on, according to a 2012 analysis of over 200 studies on CBT published in Cognitive Therapy and Research. The researchers found that CBT was effective for people struggling with anxiety, bulimia, anger issues, stress, and a number of other mental health issues.

OK, so we know that therapy is an essential and effective tool for keeping your mental health at its peak, but making that first appointment can feel intimidating. It doesn’t have to be. Our experts break down the therapy basics so you can embrace whatever you need to feel your best. Here’s what the pros want you to know.

1 Seeing a therapist is totally common —more people are doing it than you think.

Surveys show it’s not out of the ordinary to see a therapist—55 percent of college students have used campus counseling services, according to a 2012 report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of going to see a therapist, you’re not alone—and that’s totally OK, says Zachary Alti, a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, and professor at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service in New York. “Few people look forward to therapy, but students should be aware that therapy exists to help them, not to judge them,” he says. The process might not always be comfortable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. “I’d encourage students to keep an open mind and try it,” says Dr. Salley.

2 Therapy is more than talking through feelings— it’s about building skills and solving problems.

“Many [young people] tell me they’re reluctant to participate in therapy because they don’t want to talk about their feelings,” Dr. Salley says. Again, that’s totally normal. But going to therapy isn’t just about talking about how you feel; it’s also about walking away with real tools you can use in your life. “Therapy should also be action oriented—a time to learn new skills for coping and figuring out ways to solve problems,” Dr. Salley says.

3 Seeing a therapist is like going to the gym. For your brain.

“Therapy is like physical exercise,” says Alti. Just like hitting the gym is good for everyone’s physical health—not just those with diabetes or heart disease—seeing a therapist can benefit everyone’s mental health.

Student perspective “Therapy should be considered as important as going to the doctor for a regular checkup. It is a way to get in touch with yourself and to be grounded enough to deal with issues that life presents before things feel like they’re too much to handle.” —First-year graduate student, Royal Holloway University of London

4 It’s smart to see a therapist before things feel totally overwhelming.

But really, any time is a good time to go. While anxiety and depression are still the most common reasons students seek counseling, according to a 2016 annual report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, you don’t have to be in the midst of a crisis or feel like you’re nearing a breakdown to see a pro—seeing a therapist can be helpful even when things are all good. “There are a lot of pink flags before you get to red ones,” says Dr. Dana Crawford, an individual and family therapist in New York. “Keeping things from becoming extreme is always better.” In other words, don’t wait for an emergency to take care of your mental health. “When bad things do happen, mental health will protect against the impact of these unfortunate events,” adds Alti.

Student perspective

“Being able to just have someone to really listen has promoted a lot of self-discovery. I trust my therapist with everything and I feel like he genuinely cares about what I have to say. He asks me questions that make me think about why I feel and do the things that I do. Once I know where something comes from, I can change it. It’s easier said than done, but it’s not something I think I could do on my own.”
—Second-year undergraduate student, University of Alabama

5 Therapists can help you handle change.

Real talk: College is full of huge life changes. “Even positive changes can be stressful,” says Dr. Salley. Luckily, therapists are particularly skilled at helping their clients deal with these transitions. “Having someone to talk to can be helpful, especially as you encounter new situations and people,” she says. While you’re dealing with a new set of responsibilities and expectations (everything from picking the right major to sorting through awkward roommate issues), a therapist can help you pinpoint how all the changes are impacting you and sort through the onslaught of emotions that everyone feels during this time.

6 Finding the right therapist is like finding the right pair of jeans.

Therapists aren’t one-size-fits-all—sometimes you have to try a few before you find the right fit. Don’t get turned off if your first therapy appointment isn’t super helpful—if something feels uncomfortable, listen to your gut, but don’t give up, says Dr. Crawford. “You would never go to the store, try on a pair of jeans, and say, ‘Oh, those don’t fit, I guess I won’t wear jeans.’ You would keep trying jeans until you found the right fit,” says Dr. Crawford. Same goes for therapists.

Finding that fit with a therapist is just as important for the outcome as the actual therapeutic technique, according to findings presented in Psychotherapy Relationships That Work (Oxford University Press, 2004). The research analysis found that three key things had a measurable positive impact on the outcome of individual therapy: 1) the strength of your collaborative relationship with your therapist—aka are you on the same page and making goals for your treatment together?; 2) your therapist’s ability to empathize or see where you’re coming from; and 3) the degree to which you and your therapist outline goals and reevaluate them together.

In other words, to get the most out of a therapy session, take the time to find someone you feel like you’re on the same page with, who gets you, and who’s willing to listen to your goals for therapy and help you develop them.

  • What types of therapy are you trained in?
  • What issues do you specialize in?
  • What populations do you specialize in? (While all therapists take on different types of clients, some specialize in specific groups such as working with LGBTQ+ people, people of color, or those who’ve been marginalized in some way.)
  • How do you invite all aspects of your client into the room? (It’s important to know how your therapist will address all aspects of your culture, says Dr. Crawford. “You want to know that you can talk to your therapist about all parts of who you are.”)
  • What are your beliefs about how people change?
  • What’s your goal for ending therapy? (Some therapists believe therapy is an ongoing thing that you never really graduate from, while others see it as a tool to resolve a specific challenge. Make sure their goals line up with yours, and if not, ask if you can redefine them together.)

To find a therapist, start on campus—most schools offer a certain number of free counseling sessions through their counseling or psychological services.

Check with your insurance provider to see whether you need a referral to see a psychologist or counselor. If so, you may need to make an appointment with your primary care provider or the student counseling center to ask for one. Once you have the referral (if needed), you can seek out a therapist in a number of ways:

  • Ask friends and family members if they have a therapist they recommend.
  • Find out if your school counseling center has a list of recommended providers.
  • Use the American Psychological Association’s online search tool.
  • Call your insurance company or use their online services to find a list of therapists who are covered by your plan. If you get a personal recommendation from someone, you’ll also need to check that they’re covered under your insurance plan.

Once you have a name or a list of names and you’ve checked that the providers are covered by your insurance plan, call each therapist and leave a message to ask if they’re accepting new patients and to call you back with their available hours. When you hear back from the therapist, you may want to discuss what you’re looking to get out of treatment, what days and times you’re available to meet, and what their fees are—confirm that they take your insurance (it never hurts to double check this)—and ask about their training and make sure they’re licensed. Sometimes it can take a few tries to find someone whose schedule works with yours, but don’t let that deter you.

7 A therapist can help you identify—and crush—your goals.

“Therapy can be useful by helping people acquire a better understanding of themselves and develop healthy habits,” says Dr. Salley. For example, if you have trouble getting up in time to make that optional early-morning lecture, but then you beat yourself up about missing it, a therapist can help you identify what you really value and then help you make decisions based on that. “It can be helpful to talk to someone who’s objective and not a friend to bounce your experiences and feelings off of,” says Dr. Crawford. “A therapist’s only investment is for you to be your best self.”

Once you’ve identified what’s really important to you, a therapist can help give you the tools to make your value-driven goals a reality. “Problems that are unaddressed remain problems,” says Dr. Crawford. “When you’re ready for something different in your life, it can change. Therapy can help you create the future you want.”

Student perspective: “The part of the therapy that was magical was that my psychologist didn’t provide me the solutions to the issues that I had, but she made me see things very clearly so that I can find solutions myself. This way, I’m able to make good decisions and have a balanced everyday life.” —Second-year graduate student, Saint Louis University

8 What happens in therapy stays in therapy.

You may be worried that all that talking might get out or that your therapist might tell your advisor or RA about what you’re struggling with. “A therapist isn’t allowed to do this unless the student poses a threat to themselves or others,” says Alti. “A therapist’s effectiveness is dependent on maintaining trust.” Bottom line: Unless they believe you’re in imminent danger (e.g., at risk of being seriously harmed or harming yourself or others), they can’t share what you say.

In short, everyone can benefit from talking to a therapist. “In the same way that everyone can benefit from going to the dentist, sometimes therapy is just a routine cleaning,” says Dr. Crawford. “Sometimes it’s just a time to reflect on where you are and where you want to go.” Whether you’re wrestling with anxiety and depression or mildly stressed about finding a summer internship, seeing a therapist can help—even if it’s just for a few sessions. (According to the CCMH report, the average student who uses campus psychology services attends between four and five sessions.)

Student perspective

“Therapy was a good way to talk through anything weighing on my mind. My therapist was very understanding, kind, and, of course, confidential. I’d recommend going to counseling services to everyone.”
—Third-year undergraduate student, Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania

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Article sources

Zachary Alti, LMSW, clinical professor, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service; psychotherapist in New York City.

Dana Crawford, PhD, individual and family therapist, New York.

Chrissy Salley, PhD, pediatric psychologist, New York.

American Psychological Association. (2017). How to find help through seeing a psychologist. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/therapy.aspx

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Protecting your privacy: Understanding confidentiality. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/confidentiality.aspx

APA Practice Organization. (2017). Psychologist locator. Retrieved from https://locator.apa.org/

Brown, H. (2013, March 25). Looking for evidence that therapy works. New York Times. Retrieved from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/looking-for-evidence-that-therapy-works/

Center for Collegiate Mental Health. (2017, January). 2016 Annual Report. (Publication No. STA 17-74). Retrieved from https://sites.psu.edu/ccmh/files/2017/01/2016-Annual-Report-FINAL_2016_01_09-1gc2hj6.pdf

Cuijpers, P., Cristea, I. A., Ebert, D. D., Koot, H. M., et al. (2016). Psychological treatment of depression in college students: A meta-analysis. Depression and Anxiety33(5), 400–414. doi: 10.1002/da.22461

Hofmann, S. G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I. J. J., Sawyer, A. T., et al. (2012). The efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Cognitive Therapy and Research36(5), 427–440. doi: 10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1

Kessler, R. C., Amminger, G. P., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Alonso, J. et al. (2007). Age of onset of mental disorders: A review of recent literature. Current Opinions in Psychiatry, 20(4), 359–364. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e32816ebc8c

Martin, B. (2016, May 17). In-depth: Cognitive behavioral therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/in-depth-cognitive-behavioral-therapy/

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2012). College students speak: A survey report on mental health. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI/Publications-Reports/Survey-Reports/College-Students-Speak_A-Survey-Report-on-Mental-H.pdf

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Mental health facts: Children and teens. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/getattachment/Learn-More/Mental-Health-by-the-Numbers/childrenmhfacts.pdf

Norcross, J. C., & Hill, C. E. (2004). Empirically supported therapy relationships. Psychotherapy Relationships That Work, 57(3), 19–23.

UC Davis. (n.d.). Community referrals. Retrieved from https://shcs.ucdavis.edu/services/community-referrals

Feeling the pressure to be perfect? 4 ways to push back

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Being a person can be complicated. Being a perfectionistic person can be even more complicated. Those standards of yours? They’re so high you can’t see the top of them. It’s either perfect or it’s a problem. It sounds like a surefire way to succeed—as an honors student, in your top-of-the-industry internship, or at being the best in pretty much everything, right? Not really—because there’s a catch. Seeking unattainable perfection, and striving to avoid mistakes, equals serious stress—and that can cause problems with your health and academic performance.

We’re here to help—and so are our experts. We’ll break down the perfectionist basics and give you actionable, evidence-based tips for setting more realistic standards for yourself. Because self-imposed pressure can get in the way of a happy life. And that’s not OK. You ready?

What perfectionism is…and isn’t

Most of us are looking to do our best and are willing to put in the work to get there. So how can you tell when you’re being conscientious and when your drive to succeed is getting in your way? Wanting to be perfect is only part of it. The defining characteristic is a fear of making mistakes—and how you feel about yourself along the way, according to research by Dr. Thomas Greenspon published in Psychology in the Schools (2014).

“Hallmarks of perfectionism include an exaggerated concern over mistakes, lofty and unrealistic self-expectations, harsh and intense self-criticism, feeling other people need you to be perfect, and nagging doubts about performance abilities,” says Dr. Simon Sherry, a registered psychologist, researcher, and associate professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

To make it more complicated, perfectionism looks different for everyone. But it comes from the same place, says Dr. Greenspon, and it often accompanies some less-than-great feelings about yourself and a troubling sense of hopelessness.

Darts pinned to bullseye in dartboard

Here’s what perfectionism might look (and feel) like

Human brain iconFeeling less than Those who struggle with perfectionism often feel that they’re not good enough, according to Greenspon’s research, even if they never say it out loud. If they do happen to make some mistakes, perfectionistic people are likely to take that personally. Their slip-ups become reflections of themselves as people, not just of their performance or achievement. Every mistake feels like a character flaw, which increases the pressure to be exceptional and the despair when they mess up. “Anytime I am trying something new, I put a lot of pressure on myself, causing me to feel extremely inadequate with any sort of mistake I make in the process,” says Erin S.*, a first-year student at Wake Technical Community College in North Carolina.

Documentation iconSetting rigid rules Look, we all have to set some structure for ourselves, or else we’d end up in Netflix-land permanently. But perfectionistic people take that rule-setting to an extreme, one that can get in the way of daily functioning. This intense structure can lead to other stressful and time-consuming habits, such as over-checking work to excess or missing deadlines, according to research published in 2016 in JMIR Research Protocols.

Gears iconBeing inflexible Say your roommate wants to take a spontaneous hiking trip or your go-to spot in the library is taken. Those curveballs can be a problem for someone who’s dealing with perfectionism—they struggle to go with the flow. Their tried-and-true problem-solving method works for them, but only under certain circumstances. This inflexibility can be limiting and may also be a sign that something is off. Flexibility is an indicator of positive mental health, says Dr. Sarah Vinson, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Georgia.

Clock iconProcrastinating on assignments People struggling with perfectionism are often totally consumed with making sure that every last detail is perfect. While some may be horrified by the idea of missing a deadline, others might finish tests late, hand in assignments past deadline, or never finish them at all, according to the 2014 study published in Psychology in the Schools. Seem counterintuitive? Only at first glance. If you’re striving for a standard that you can’t hit, you’ll never fully be finished with a task. For some, this might mean spending too much time double-, triple-, and quadruple-checking work until deadlines have long passed. For others, the idea of handing in something that is “imperfect” is worse than handing in nothing at all. “It might feel easier to say you ran out of time than to admit that you couldn’t do it as perfectly as you wanted,” explains Dr. Keith Anderson, staff psychologist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

How perfectionism can get in the way

Perfectionism is no joke, and neither are the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that go along with it. It’s linked with burnout, which can zap your motivation, wipe you out, and keep you from doing your best. A meta-analysis of 43 studies found that those who struggled with “perfectionist concerns,” or being worried about making mistakes, feeling like there’s a big difference between their standards and their performance, or being concerned about looking imperfect in front of others, experienced increased feelings of burnout (Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2016).

Some people who struggle with perfectionism may also struggle with mental health conditions, according to the American Psychological Association. And those can be serious. Some potential effects of the pressure to be perfect include:

Anxiety

Being perfectionistic makes you more vulnerable to anxiety, says Dr. Sherry. And the research backs this up. Feeling that mistakes make you inadequate can result in anxiety and shame, according to Greenspon’s research.

Increased suicide risk

Perfectionism is linked to an increased risk of suicide, according to a 2014 article in the Review of General Psychology.

Body image issues

Perfectionism, and the behaviors that go along with it, is associated with increased body dissatisfaction, which, for some, can lead to the development of disordered eating, according to a 2012 study in the Journal of Eating Disorders.

Young man pondering and looking upward

What you can do about it

It’s OK if you see yourself or your habits in some of this. In fact, the first step to challenging perfectionistic tendencies is to recognize that they’re there, so high five for self-awareness. If you’re ready to push back against your fear of making mistakes, here are four things you can try.

1. Think process, not results

You’re in college to learn, not churn out flawless papers and perfect scores, and that means being an active part of the analytical process. Rather than focusing on how you’re doing (i.e., your performance), try focusing more on what you’re learning and stay engaged with the material, knowing that making mistakes is often critical in deepening your understanding. “Part of the college experience is learning to think independently and see things on a conceptual basis, and that’s hard to do if you’re so focused on getting every detail right all the time,” Dr. Vinson says.

2. Change the conversation

“In high-pressure academic environments, there’s this culture of [competition around] who works the hardest. People brag about doing really well,” Dr. Vinson says. This can lead to an intense atmosphere that fuels perfectionistic traits and keeps you quiet when your experience differs from the stories you’re hearing. So tell a different story.

Try it: Talk openly with friends about the work you’re putting in, where you’re struggling, and the mistakes you’re making. Feeling anxious about an assignment that you didn’t do well on? Your roommate probably has similar stories. The more of those you hear, the more you realize that we’re all making mistakes, and that doesn’t make us less worthy.

To prevent people from attributing their shortcomings to personal flaws, and to draw attention to how much failure it takes to get where you want to go, a Princeton professor created a nontraditional résumé.

3. Make a mistake on purpose

Yup, we went there. So much of perfectionism is about this fear of making a wrong move. And one way to deal with fear is to face it head-on—by making a few intentional and noncritical errors here and there, according to a guide to perfectionism created by Dr. Glenn Hirsch, director of student counseling services at the University of Minnesota. Psychologists call this exposure therapy. (The rest of us call it courageously superhuman.)

Try it: Keep your intentional slip-ups small: Wear your t-shirt with the bleach stain on it to grab pizza with friends. Be a few minutes late to a club meeting. Send an email with an intentional grammatical error. Once you see that making mistakes doesn’t mean instant catastrophe, you might be able to ease up on the pressure you put on yourself. And that can be liberating.

4. Commit to cutting back—just a little

When you’re deep in perfectionistic territory, you’re triple-checking your triple-checks, rereading a two-line email for two hours, or putting in a crushing amount of study time for a five-question quiz. One way to work against this is to cut back in tiny ways over time rather than trying to stop your perfectionistic patterns all at once, suggests Dr. Hirsch. This is a behavior change staple because it works.

Try it: Take your eight-hour window of quiz-studying to six—and then stick to it. Maybe next time, knock it down to five. Pay attention to how you feel as you’re making the adjustments and see how that changes over time. The point isn’t to lower your standards, but instead to get them to a point that feels less soul-crushing and more realistic.

young woman sitting and talking to counselor or therapist

If you’re still struggling, that’s OK

If you’re feeling bogged down by perfectionism, reach out to a counselor or therapist at your school or in your community. Because perfectionistic people have a hard time admitting when they’re not feeling perfect, this may not feel easy. But it’s so worth a try. Dr. Greenspon describes moving past perfectionism as a recovery process, one that involves adjusting your worldview and sense of reality. Let’s be real: This is a big shift. It takes some work and time to rebuild your sense of yourself independent from pure achievement. Here are some treatment options to talk through with a professional.

Radically open-dialectical behavioral therapy (RO-DBT): RO-DBT is a therapy for people who struggle with “emotional over-control” that teaches strategies to increase flexibility, openness, and communication in social situations, according to research published in 2015 in the American Journal of Psychotherapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a therapy that teaches you how to transform unhealthy, negative thoughts into positive thoughts and behaviors.

Visit or call your counseling center to chat with a therapist, or use this tool from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for help finding one in your area.

*Student name has been changed for privacy


Student review, MindShift app

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Photo of KimberlyKimberly M.
Third-year undergraduate, University of Central Arkansas

 

“Perfectionism is a word I never thought I’d associate myself with. However, this app helped me understand the term better, which helped me recognize that I am a perfectionist to an extent. Using the six steps given, I was supplied nice, calming thoughts to read when I needed it, as well as examples of exercises I can do to calm myself down. These tips are based on the research of the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia, a nonprofit dedicated to improving mental health and reducing stigma surrounding anxiety and its related disorders. It’s great having all this information in the privacy of your own home, right at your fingertips.”

Useful?
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
There’s always that one assignment you can’t stop reviewing. Or maybe you’re like me and every email or message must be checked and rechecked…so much that it might even take a day to send! The exercises helped calm me down.

Fun?
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
The app isn’t really “fun” per se, unless you consider reading fun, which I do! There were also recordings of how to do the exercises, which was helpful. If you’re not used to listening to recordings, there will probably be a chuckle or two the first time!

Effective?
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
For the first time, I sent an email without checking it more than twice. I still need to work on it, but I’ve eliminated the rewrites after rewrites! The app has helped me worry less about the smallest flaws.

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[survey_plugin] Article sources

Keith J. Anderson, PhD, registered psychologist, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York.

Simon B. Sherry, PhD, registered psychologist, researcher, and associate professor, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Sarah Vinson, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist; assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia.

Benson, E. (2003). The many faces of perfectionism. Monitor on Psychology, 34(10), 18. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/nov03/manyfaces.aspx

Capan, B. E. (2010). Relationship among perfectionism, academic procrastination and life satisfaction among university students. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 5, 1665–1671. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042810017167

Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., & Heisel, M. J. (2014). The destructiveness of perfectionism revisited: Implications for the assessment of suicide risk and the prevention of suicide. Review of General Psychology, 18(3), 156–172. Retrieved from https:// psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=2014-38880-002

Greenspon, T. S. (2014). Is there an antidote to perfectionism? Psychology in the Schools, 51(9), 986–998. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265514641_Is_there_an_antidote_to_perfectionism

Handley, A. K., Egan, S. J., Kane. R., & Rees, C. S. (2015). A randomized controlled trial of group cognitive behavioural therapy for perfectionism. Behavior Research and Therapy, 68, 37–47. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273706203_A_randomised_controlled_trial_of_group_cognitive_behavioural_therapy_for_perfectionism

Hill, A. P., & Curran, T. (2016). Multidimensional perfectionism and burnout: A meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology, 3, 269–288. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279191467_Multidimensional_P erfectionism_and_Burnout_A_Meta-Analysis

Hirsch, G. (n.d.). An imperfect look at overcoming perfectionism. University Counseling and Consulting Services. University of Minnesota. Retrieved from https://www.sass.umn.edu/pdfs/II%20Self%20Awareness/Perfectionism/C%204.4.8%20Imperfect%20Look%20at%20Overcoming%20Perfectionism%20%20rev..pdf

Kothari, R., Egan, S., Wade, T., Andersson, G., et al. (2016). Overcoming perfectionism: Protocol of a randomized controlled trial of an internet-based guided self-help cognitive behavioral therapy intervention. JMIR Research Protocols, 5(4), e215. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309959188_Overcoming_Perfectionism_Protocol_of_a_Randomized_Controlled_Trial_of_an_Internet-Based_Guided_Self-Help_Cognitive_Behavioral_Therapy_Intervention

Lynch, T. R., Hempel, R. J., & Dunkley, C. (2015). Radically open-dialectical behavior therapy for disorders of over-control: Signaling matters. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 69(2), 141–162. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279987144_Radically_Open-Dialectical_Behavior_Therapy_for_Disorders_of_Over_Control_Signaling_Matters

Wade, T. D., & Tiggemann, M. (2013). The role of perfectionism in body dissatisfaction. Journal of Eating Disorders1, 2. Retrieved from https://jeatdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2050-2974-1-2

University of Michigan. (n.d.). Coping with perfectionism. Retrieved from https://caps.umich.edu/content/coping-perfectionism

Student hacks: More freebies than you’ll ever get again

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Student life is full of challenges, sometimes triggering a major case of enough already. You’re probably aware that the campus offers a bunch of services and resources designed to help you be healthy, resilient, and successful. Do they work? In surveys by Student Health 101, you say yes: These services can make the difference between passing or failing, an A or a B, staying in or dropping out. Students often say they regret waiting until they were in a crisis, and wish they’d accessed these resources earlier. Some report that for the longest time they didn’t know certain types of support existed.

Free stuff for students

Campus resources are usually available free or at a low cost. Of course, college gym membership, counseling, and so on are not literally free; their cost is covered by your tuition. If you don’t use them, you’re not getting what you’re paying for. In a recent survey by Student Health 101, more than three out of four college students said this is even more reason to access these services. If you wait until after you’ve graduated to learn yoga or get professional help with your social anxiety, it will likely be costly.

How to know what you have

The availability of resources at any given school depends on various factors. To learn what’s typically available and how can it make your life easier, click on each resource.

Here’s how to make sure you’re not missing out:

  • Scour your college website
  • Talk with staff, faculty, RAs, mentors, and other students
  • Check out any building, event, or publication that suggests resources for students
  • Look for student jobs and other opportunities to work with campus resource centers
  • Review your orientation resources (e.g., Class of 2020 Facebook page)

Academic tutoring, office hours, and study support

“The tutoring center has helped me more than words can describe. I finally understand the work I’m doing, plus it’s free! I went from being an average student to being above average and helping other kids in my classes.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, University of New Mexico

“They helped me bring my essay writing up to over 80 percent grade-level, elevating my writing ability from high school to university quality in one session.”
—Fifth-year online undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario

Typical services

  • Supports students through ongoing or short-term struggles, and helps students become more competitive (e.g., aspiring grad students looking to improve their grades)
  • Office hours provide individualized time with instructors or peer tutors
  • Study centers can help with time management, overcoming procrastination, note taking, effective reading, exam prep, etc.
  • Many study centers provide group workshops in key skills and specialized tutoring for different subjects (or referrals to community-based tutors)
  • Writing centers help students build college-level writing skills (e.g., via brainstorming and editing services)
  • Drop-in hours can help you find quick answers to specific questions
  • Cost if paying privately: $15–$25/hour (student tutors), $50–$75/hour (professional tutors) (various sources)

How it made the difference

“Huge! I took a coding class and had no prior programming experience. I was in office hours all the time. Without being able to go to my instructor for help, I would not have done nearly as well in the class as I did.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Missouri University of Science and Technology

“Office hours enabled me to get additional time with my TAs and further understand the material.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Johns Hopkins University, Maryland

Academic advising

“It’s the difference between passing and not passing classes, going to summer school vs. not going.”
—Third-year undergraduate, California State University, Stanislaus

“Without my advisor, I would be so lost on which classes to take when. She provides me with opportunities outside of just choosing classes to better myself in my career.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Northern Michigan University

Typical services

  • Guidance around what classes to take when, in order to meet graduation requirements efficiently, helps students get through their program more quickly and save money by taking classes in the most appropriate sequence
  • Guidance around accessing opportunities relating to degree goals (e.g., internships and conferences)
  • Support with decisions around personal goals relating to career, interests, and/or advanced degrees
  • May provide support with time management and study skills
  • Cost if paying privately: $50–$100/hour (services for students with disabilities) (various sources)

How it made the difference

“Attending academic advising made an incredible difference in relieving the stress of picking courses and making important choices regarding my studies and undergraduate career.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario

“My academic advisor helps identify a balanced combination of courses so that my course load is not overwhelming.”
—Fourth-year online undergraduate, Florida International University

“It made a world of difference between me going to grad school or not going… between succeeding and failing at the process.”
—First-year graduate student, California State University, Stanislaus

Recreational and fitness resources

“I wish I had started taking advantage of the recreation center and gym earlier, especially while access is free. Exercise is so important to staying healthy and happy, but I didn’t realize how big of an impact it can have.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Texas Christian University

“Changed my lifestyle and health habits completely.”
—First-year graduate student, University of North Dakota

Typical services

  • Free access to gym, weight room, track, pool, etc.
  • Free access to a range of fitness classes and intramurals (varies by school)
  • Most schools allow one guest per student with a nominal fee
  • Personal training (may involve a fee)
  • Consultation with nutritionist or fitness director (varies by school; may involve a fee)
  • Cost if paying privately: gym membership averages $58/month (Cheatsheet); personal training $80–$125/hour (Angie’s List).

How it made the difference

“It made a huge difference! Taking time between classes to work out helped me recharge and let me be ready to learn.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of Guelph, Ontario

“It’s great to have free access to fitness equipment. It made a huge difference in my fitness and stress level.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Ferris State University, Michigan

“Having a gym close by is game-changing!”
 —Third-year undergraduate, Queen’s University, Ontario

Library services

“Getting support from librarians and library staff has saved me hours of work on papers and projects.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, Michigan Technological University

“I rented textbooks from the library, which saved me a lot of money.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Windsor, Ontario

Typical services

  • Books, articles, and journals, hard-copy or electronic, available to borrow
  • Research assistance (e.g., finding resources, navigating databases, requesting articles)
  • Extensive online resources, sometimes including instant chat guidance
  • IT stations including free software access
  • Private or group study spaces
  • Loans and sometimes rentals of textbooks, laptops, and other materials (varies)
  • Access to software, such as Microsoft Office
  • Specialized research resources for needs relating to disability services and other programs
  • Printing, photocopying, and scanning (may involve fees)
  • Cost if paying privately: no direct equivalent

How it made the difference

“The library made a huge difference. It was a place of quiet where I could put 100 percent of my focus into my work. The people within the library also helped to bring my papers to the next level.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Concordia University of Edmonton, Alberta

“The friendly support of our librarians in helping me find journal articles through the library’s online databases made a huge difference in my being able to complete my research well.”
—Second-year graduate student, Arkansas Tech University

Disability, injury, and illness accommodations and services

“It changed everything. I finally felt like I was on an even playing field with my peers and didn’t have to stress that my condition was setting me back any more.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Stanford University, California

“I got sick with mono and didn’t go for help, and my grades went down. I wish I would have said something sooner to get time to finish school work.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Michigan Technological University

Typical services

  • Works to create equitable support services for students with physical, psychiatric, or developmental disabilities and illness
  • Academic and living accommodations to help students with challenges related to disability, injury, and illness
  • Core services include learning plan development, exam accommodations, assistive technologies, resources in alternate formats (e.g., Braille), finding funding support, general advising, and personalized support staff
  • Transportation assistance for students with limited mobility
  • Cost if paying privately: no direct equivalent

How it made the difference

“Disability services made a massive difference. I probably wouldn’t have made it through university without their support.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador

“The Accessibility Resource Center: The accommodations they allow for me are amazing and have greatly helped me succeed in courses.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of New Mexico

“I have ADHD and never wanted to be one of those students who gets extra time and help... So I’ve never gotten help that I probably need. I haven’t overcome it and it’s probably negatively affecting me.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Counseling

“The counseling center helped me more than any paid therapist ever has. They helped me nearly overcome my phobia and deal with substance abuse and sexual assault.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of Memphis, Tennessee

“It made a huge difference in helping me understand myself and relate easier to fellow students.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Berea College, Kentucky

Typical services

  • Free counseling/therapy services, confidential for those age 18+ (below that age, inquire about confidentiality law and policy)
  • Individual and group counseling, emergency psychological services, and wellness programming including workshops and groups
  • Support with issues including life transitions and adjusting to college
  • Support with anxiety, stress, depression, other mental health conditions, identity, anger management, body image and disordered eating, family issues, motivation, substance abuse or dependency, abuse, suicidal thoughts, and more
  • Emergency phone line and/or on-call staff for after-business hours and weekends (at some schools)
  • Cost if paying privately: $50–$250/hour (uninsured); insurance typically covers a portion of mental health care.

How it made the difference

“There is a good chance I wouldn’t be in university right now without it.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Windsor, Ontario

“Instead of focusing on me and my problems, I took advantage of group therapy, which allowed me to be a part of other people’s struggles and hear their experiences, difficulties, failures, and losses (and have them experience mine as well). I was able to see, learn from, grow, and get back to living my life.”
—Third-year graduate student, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, New York

“It made a tremendous difference in teaching me valuable lessons on controlling anxiety.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, Michigan Technological University

“I went through an incredibly difficult family emergency while in a very demanding program. Counseling helped me understand and work through the emergency and also provided support when I struggled academically, allowing me to carry on.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario

Health services

“The health center saved me a lot of money, because I don’t have good insurance coverage.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of West Georgia

“Excellent system, easy to access, and the doctors are very friendly. I wish I didn’t have so many hesitations and went to them sooner.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Mount Royal University, Alberta

Typical services

  • Consultations and treatment for injury, illness, and health maintenance via campus health center
  • Preventive health services including vaccinations (flu shots, travel vaccines, and more)
  • Smoking cessation, alcohol moderation, recovery support, and other substance use services
  • Specialist health services, including STI and pregnancy testing and birth control
  • Care with chronic allergies, illness (e.g., diabetes), and other conditions, including administering injections
  • Health care providers may include physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, physician assistants, and specialists such as psychiatrists
  • Appointments are often free; tests and medications may involve fees
  • Many schools offer student health insurance and/or accept other health insurance
  • Urgent care centers: Cost will vary based on need and insurance
  • Cost if paying privately: uninsured new patient primary care visit averages $160 (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health)

How it made the difference

“I love the free things they give out.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, California State University, Channel Islands

“It was so great to have assistance on campus and at such great prices for college students! I appreciate it so much!”
—Second-year undergraduate, University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire

“The health center provided me with that-day doctor appointments, which minimized the amount of time I spent out of class sick.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, University of Wyoming

Career services

“Make use of small amounts of time you get in the day to access career support. This can make an enormous difference in how prepared you are.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of Miami, Florida

“It helped me a lot in preparing for job interviews and fixing up my résumé, and the facility is really great about [facilitating] different opportunities and connections.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Johnson and Wales University, Rhode Island

Typical services

  • Internship, summer job, and co-op opportunities, application information, and guidance on making the most of these positions
  • Résumé and cover letter review and workshops
  • Assessment of career interests and options
  • Networking assistance, including connections with alumni
  • Assistance with pursuing further education (e.g., graduate school)
  • Recruitment, job postings, and career fair
  • Exploring career options and strategy
  • Mock interviews
  • Cost of career coaching if paying privately: $100–$500/two-hour session (Undercover Recruiter)

How it made the difference

“Using this service allowed me to apply to summer jobs, confident that my documents were professional and appealing to potential employers.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of New Brunswick

“The Career Advancement Center allowed me to practice my interviewing skills with mock interviews and how to appropriately answer questions.”
—First-year graduate student, Midwestern University, Illinois

Residence life and mentoring

Typical services

  • Support through the range of challenges relating to transitions and college life
  • Formal mentoring programs can provide regular, structured check-ins (varies by school and student population)
  • Informal mentoring by mutual agreement can also be effective
  • Connections to peers and alumni
  • Cost of life coaching if paying privately: $100–$300/hour (LifeCoach.com)

How it made the difference

“It’s always nice to clear your head and speak to an actual person, and then be able to get back to schoolwork.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Johnson and Wales University, Rhode Island

“RAs are incredibly important and useful. They’re the first person I go to with basically any question, and because they are older students, they can answer (honestly, too) any question that you can come up with.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, University of North Dakota

“I worked at the Solution Center, which answers the campus main line and also is the IT Help Desk. Being a freshman, I learned a lot about deadlines, how things work, where to find information. I just learned about all my resources and what to do when I have issues with something. I basically learned everything about campus, and it helped so much.”
—Second-year undergraduate at California State University, Channel Islands

“Residence Life has been the most useful resource for advice on all sorts of matters. They became my most trusted mentors on campus.”
—Second-year graduate student, Emory University, Georgia

“My scholarship advisor has been a valuable resource, not just academically, but emotionally. He has helped talk me through all of the ups and downs and put things into perspective.”
—Third-year undergraduate, California State University, Stanislaus

Financial support

Typical services

  • Information on taxes, grants, scholarships, job openings, and more
  • Financial aid packages
  • Student loan information, counseling, and advocacy
  • Personal finance consultations for budgeting strategies
  • Drop-in sessions during office hours for information, advocacy, and financial counseling
  • Cost of financial planning if paying privately: $125–$350/hour (Bankrate.com)

How it made the difference

“The financial aid advisors are a great help; you realize the breakdown of a survival budget throughout school, until you get to where you want to be in life.”
—Second-year student, Elgin Community College, Illinois

“The financial aid office made a big difference in the amount of assistance I receive.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Cambrian College, Ontario

“Finance services can help you get a jump on financial opportunities on and around campus, such as work-study, job openings, and budgeting.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate student, Clemson University, South Carolina

“Student employment [opportunities at my school were] the top reason why I decided against transferring.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Endicott College, Massachusetts

Support for minority communities

Typical services

  • Special benefits/scholarships for veterans (via Veteran Affairs Office or equivalent)
  • International student services assist with cultural transitions and other issues
  • Native American student services may include advising, scholarships, housing, etc.
  • Chaplaincy and other religious and spiritual services offer community and worship, often in a multi-faith environment
  • Gender equity services and women’s centers provide community and support with issues relating to discrimination
  • Cost if paying privately: no direct equivalent

How it made the difference

“The indigenous student support services made it possible for me to complete my first undergrad and start my second one. I wish I’d accessed the Native Student Union earlier.”
—Second-year student, University of Victoria, British Columbia

“The gender equity center changed my perspective, provided support and education, and allowed me to connect with the campus community.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Boise State University, Idaho

“The international student office provides me with the information that I need for work and study permits.”
—Recent graduate, Fleming College, Ontario

Title IX (anti-discrimination) services

Typical services

  • Promotes a nondiscriminatory educational, living, and working environment
  • Confidential resources and support relating to actions that violate nondiscrimination laws and policies, including sexual assault, coercion, and harassment, and exclusion of transgender students from facilities and opportunities
  • Coordinates, provides, and/or refers to services including victim advocacy, housing assistance, academic support, counseling, disability services, health and mental health services, and legal assistance
  • Investigates cases of alleged misconduct and applies appropriate remedies
  • Provides advocacy and training related to discrimination and violence
  • Cost if paying privately: no direct equivalent.

How it made the difference

“One girl was harassing and bullying me. The police took the situation very seriously and took me to meet with the dean. I received a no-contact order with that student and have yet to hear from her since.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Indiana University Southeast

“It helped me with my sexual assault case and made me feel like my situation mattered.”
—Fourth-year online undergraduate, University of North Dakota

“I was 20 and a student during winter term [when I was sexually assaulted]. It made me feel powerless. I had tried to be his friend. I reported to my area coordinator and then later the public safety staff. I had to give a statement at the student board. Took three months to come up with a verdict.”
—Undergraduate, Oregon

Your wish list: What you'd like to see on campus

These responses came from students at numerous colleges and universities across the US and Canada. Some of these resources may be available at your school.

  • Free coffee
  • Public sleep/nap areas
  • Dance rooms or public art spaces
  • Prayer room
  • Sign language
  • Drivers Ed
  • Easier access to rental vehicles
  • Support with budgeting, filing taxes, and legal issues
  • Summer rec. center access
  • Vegetarian/vegan dining stations
  • Groups supporting eating healthy on residence meal plan
  • Gender-neutral bathrooms and housing
  • Clubs and scholarships for first-generation students
  • Better support for transfer students
  • Resources for young parents
  • Resources for disabled students to gain life skills

[survey_plugin] Article sources

Danielle Berringer, administrative support, Accommodated Learning Centre, University of Lethbridge, Alberta.

Burress, H. (2015, January 19). What factors affect the cost of a personal trainer? Angie’sList.com. Retrieved from https://www.angieslist.com/articles/what-factors-affect-cost-personal-trainer.htm

Colorado Mesa University. (2015). Mentoring. Retrieved from https://www.coloradomesa.edu/student-services/diversity-and-health/mentoring.html

Costa, C. D. (2016, January 1). Why a gym membership is usually a bad investment. Money & Career CheatSheet. Retrieved from https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/why-a-gym-membership-is-usually-a-bad-investment.html/?a=viewall

Georgia State University. (n.d.). Nutrition consultations. https://recreation.gsu.edu/fitness/fitness-center/nutrition-consultations/

Hobart and William Smith Colleges. (2011). Treatment providers in the community. Retrieved from https://www.hws.edu/studentlife/pdf/psychotherapists_community.pdf

Hobart and William Smith Colleges. (2016). Sexual misconduct resources and support. Retrieved from https://www.hws.edu/studentlife/titleIX_office.aspx

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2015, May 5). Primary care visits available to most uninsured but at high price. Retrieved from https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2015/primary-care-visits-available-to-most-uninsured-but-at-a-high-price.html

Lifecoach.com. (2016). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from https://www.lifecoach.com/coaching-faqs

NCSU Libraries. (n.d.). Technology lending. Retrieved from https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/techlending

MacDonald, J. (2015, December 31). Financial planners: Not just for millionaires anymore. Bankrate.com. Retrieved from https://www.bankrate.com/finance/savings/financial-planners-not-just-for-millionaires-anymore-1.aspx

Student Health 101 survey, July 2016.

Sundberg, J. (n.d.). Is a career coach worth the money? UndercoverRecruiter.com. Retrieved from https://theundercoverrecruiter.com/career-coach-worth-money/

University of Lethbridge. (2016). Resources. Retrieved from https://www.uleth.ca/counselling/content/u-l-resources

The University of Maine. (n.d.). Financial resources for students. Retrieved from https://umaine.edu/sss/finances/

University of Notre Dame. (2016). Want to mentor? Retrieved from https://careercenter.nd.edu/alumni-mentor/want-to-mentor/

University of Washington. (2014). Undergraduate advising. Retrieved from https://www.washington.edu/uaa/advising/finding-help/study-centers-and-tutoring/