I’m 23 and back at my parents’ house. Which isn’t so bad. I alternate between old woman activities and preteen ones – from knitting (potholders, mostly, thanks for asking), to scrapbooking, to TikTok dances and PlayStation. Anything to distract myself from family drama, my canceled graduation ceremony and the thousands of dollars of debt I have from a study abroad semester cut short.
But some days I don’t need a distraction, I need guidance.
I’ve always been an advocate for talk therapy at any stage in life. Whether for self-growth or simply to talk something out with an unbiased third-party.
So when I learned Curry Health was doing online counseling sessions for the rest of the semester, I decided to give it a shot. I hope this article gives you some of the tools you need (therapy language) to try it out for yourself!
The Curry receptionist, Mary Ann, still works from the office answering phones, so call (406) 243-4712 to schedule your virtual appointment. She can tell you who you’ve seen at Curry before if anyone, and how many sessions you have left. Each session is still $25, and it gets charged to your student account, so there’s no need to pay it right away. She scheduled me for the very next morning, I picked an intern I hadn’t met before.
Before your session, you’ll be asked to fill out the regular mental health screening questionnaire on the Curry Health portal and an online consent form. As a precaution, you’ll write the address of your current location and the address of the nearest emergency center.
Right after scheduling, you’ll get an email from Curry with the link to the appointment. It was my first time using Zoom, so I had to download it to my computer, which only took a few seconds. Note that it’s not necessarily a replacement for in-person counseling and not the right option if you need emergency care.
I got lucky with my therapist – she had read my notes from the previous several years with various counselors at Curry, so she knew a bit about my personality and my past struggles. I didn’t have any pressing issues at the time of the session, but we ended up talking about how this was a time of recovery for me. I had just gone through many intense life changes, like moving across the globe and back to my parents’ house for the first time in years, and now I have to deal with a lot of uncertainty, like not knowing when I’ll be able to see my long-distance partner again.
The truth is, everyone needs something different from therapy, and it’s OK if you don’t know what that is. I needed a reminder to be more self-compassionate during this time. It’s OK to mourn my losses, have bad days and spend hours playing video games. My session also helped me realize I needed to cut back on certain social media travel accounts, because it was only triggering sadness and anger about my study abroad experience being cut short.
My therapist also told me I should be proud of myself for simply having a therapy session. It shows that I care about bettering myself and that I made my health a priority. If you’re considering therapy, I hope you know that it’s a huge accomplishment that takes strength and courage – kudos!
1. Dedicate a well-lit space for the session. If you can, avoid sitting in your bed or around other family members. The therapist will also ask you to choose a code word – so they know if your privacy has been compromised.
2. Take it seriously. Before my session, I acted as if I was really going out for counseling. I showered, brushed my teeth and got dressed. The act of hygiene and self-care is worth it. You’re putting 50 minutes of time into just focusing on yourself. Treat it like an important meeting, because it is important and so are you!
3. Test your Wi-fi. If possible, call a friend or family member on Zoom before your session just to make sure the connection works in your counseling spot.
4. Bring stuff. Eye contact with a computer screen can be slightly awkward, so I made a mug of tea to hold during our session so I had something else to focus on occasionally. If there’s an item that helps you relax like a hot drink, fidget spinner or notebook for doodling, bring it! I also set my phone aside so I wouldn’t be distracted.
5. Take control. This goes for all types of therapy. If you have a specific issue you’d like to discuss, or a problem you need to solve, be proactive and guide your therapist. This is your session, and you should feel empowered to lead it wherever you want it to go.
6. Manage expectations. Our session froze a few times, which is slightly horrifying when you’re trying to spill your deepest feelings and suddenly this stranger’s goofy face is stuck on your screen for ages. It won’t be perfect, so take it with a grain of salt. It’s also OK if you simply didn’t like it. Maybe you didn’t click with your therapist, or maybe it’s just too awkward through a screen. Commend yourself for trying, and find other outlets.
7. Apply for the emergency fund if you can’t afford the $25 counseling fee. I haven't tried this tip myself, but mental health is essential, so I’d hope that the University would try to work with you, especially during these isolating times.
Although I look forward to face-to-face therapy again, I have a feeling the days of quarantine will see me making another appointment someday soon, if I can fit it into my busy, busy schedule.