College Is Wreaking Havoc On Me, But I’m Not Sure I Need (or Want) Help
Are you a college student who has a problem – whether stress, relationship or school-related – but doesn’t want to seek help? Maybe others have told you you need to get help, but you don’t believe them or don’t want to follow their advice. It might be something else – like the hassle of having to squeeze counseling sessions into an already horrendous schedule of activities. Or perhaps you tried counseling before and had a bad experience and think to yourself, “Nope, I’m not doing that again!”
It’s not unusual to feel ambivalent about help-seeking and change. It’s human nature to let an idea “simmer” before we take action – especially when it is a big decision or a decision that we are reluctant to make for whatever reason. When you decide to seek help you will have come to the conclusion that you have a problem that you can’t solve yourself – whether it’s a problem of your making or doing OR someone else who is creating problems for you that you’re not sure how to handle. In either case, you may need input on what to do, but getting to the point of acknowledging there’s a problem and taking action to do something about it takes time. In fact, many people go through predictable stages of change as part of the help-seeking process.
Stages of Change Model
Many years ago two researchers – DiClemente & Prochaska – created a model that explains the stages people pass through when changing problem behaviors. For most people they don’t wake up one morning and decide, “Hey, this problem I have is for real. I think I’ll stop doing it (or start doing something else instead).” The thing is problem behaviors usually are well-ingrained patterns of responding to certain situations over many years so they’re not always easy to change. In fact, DiClemente and Prochaska noted that some people might not even recognize they have a problem (precontemplation stage) and so from their point of view there’s nothing that needs to be changed. However, there may come a point where they recognize and even acknowledge they have a problem, but not be ready or willing to change (contemplation). This is where ambivalence comes into play. On the one hand, the person sees how their behavior is causing problems for themselves or others, but on the other hand it’s hard for them to consider the possibility of changing something that’s been such a core part of who they are. People who struggle with addiction find themselves in this quandary. They may engage in a pro/con or risk/benefit analysis to decide how they want to proceed and eventually decide (perhaps after many negative consequences) to commit to behavior change (commitment). There’s planning involved at this stage of the process – “What am I going to do? How am I going to do it? Who will be involved in my plan and what will be their involvement?” Next comes putting the plan into motion (action). This can be very difficult as a person must make a conscious effort to do things differently when they are in situations that trigger them to respond with their old problem behaviors. A guy who wants to stop drinking alcohol may find it challenging – and even anxiety-provoking – to walk into a friend’s house and be put in the position of declining a beer or shot of whiskey. He may have successful periods of sobriety, but “fall off the wagon” a few times. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the person is a failure, but simply that something triggered him to temporarily engage in his old way of responding. It should be viewed as a learning experience the same way, say, another person who struggles with procrastination “falls off the wagon” by putting off something important until the last minute after months of success in establishing and using a different behavior pattern (Maintenance & Relapse recycling).
Here’s what may happen after you read this. You’ll think to yourself, “Hmmm…this sounds interesting, but I’m not really sure if I need or want to seek help. I’ll just hold off for a while or I’ll figure out how to handle this on my own” How many times have you “put things off for a while” or convinced yourself not to do something that might have really helped you? (Really…answer that question before you continue reading.)
If you are a college student who lives in Tennessee or Michigan then consider scheduling an appointment with a mental health professional like Dr. Quarto to discuss your problem. You don’t have to commit to ongoing sessions if you don’t want to. In fact, knowing that might help you feel comfortable enough to schedule the appointment regardless of whether you see yourself or someone else as the one with the problem OR whether this is the right time for you to do something about it. Also, knowing that you can talk to Dr. Quarto from your home, apartment, car…wherever…via a “Skype-like” app and don’t have to travel somewhere unfamiliar might also make a difference. Take two minutes now to think about how you’d like to proceed before you go on with your day. : )
Call Dr. Quarto now for a free 15-minute consultation! 615-403-5227
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