Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
As a graduate student at Harvard, I can access the University Counseling and Mental Health Services, covered under my university health insurance. Being a Human Development and Psychology graduate myself, I am a firm advocate of structures that support psychological well-being and a believer in the power of good therapy and the powerful shifts it can bring to your life.
However, like most developing societies of this world, I too come from one in which not only are these kinds of services rarely available, but even when provided, mostly undermined. Stigmas associated with accessing these services are infinite and just the thought of investing our time to these services are looked down upon, as we get busy wearing exhaustion as a badge of honor.
Harvard, as expected, as a university has a narrative of being a space of high achievers. Thus, thriving here and gaining balanced perspectives towards life can be extremely challenging as your mind is constantly being exposed to cues that trigger and fuel anxiety and impostor syndrome, and if you have trained your mind to lack self-compassion for years as I have, then it’s a piece of even sadder news.
As I have written in my previous article, authentic human connections are the most important ingredient in building muscles of resilience in an ever-changing world. It was because of my faith in good therapy that I had experienced earlier in my life, coupled with my search for an authentic connection, that I reached the University Counseling and Mental Health Services. The initial session or two was a tug of war for me, as I pushed and pulled vulnerability and trust. However, very soon, everything shifted and my therapist became this one person I would look out to visit. I found my most authentic self sitting on the chair right in front of her, as I laughed, cried and shared my heart out to her.
So what was the magic that my therapist did and for people with a high-achiever, “I can do it all on my own” narrative? How does good therapy help?
Well, if you live with this narrative, then a good way of looking at therapy is looking at it through the lenses of therapy being a means of unleashing your true potential. If your performance in life matters to you then realize that a good therapist can act as a well-being coach for you. Active listening, kind perspective-taking, and unconditional support — elements usually present in a nurturing family structure. or in genuine friendships built over time. are usually found in great therapy. And while you may be all the way across the world, like me at Harvard, or wherever you are in this world at whichever stage in your life, irrespective of your existing emotional support systems, good therapy can work wonders. And remember, your therapist is not a magician. Like all other human relationships, it takes time, commitment, vulnerability and actively nurturing “the seeds of trust” planted by both the humans involved.
Life’s journey is life’s destination. And sometimes this journey can get extremely overwhelming with our minds and hearts getting clouded with layers of social conditioning and unskillful narratives. Therapy can be that one experience where you can learn to rewire your mind and heart to write newer and better stories of this journey, thereby expanding your ever existing human potential.
This article is dedicated to my therapist at CAMHS, Harvard University. Thank you for the amazing work you do and even more importantly, for being you.
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