As a counselor working with college students, the end of the spring semester is bitter-sweet. Graduation, new jobs and summer vacations may result in ending therapy or taking a break from sessions for a while. When students I work with go home for summer, I know they might be facing family stressors, a lot of down-time, and disconnection from social networks developed on-campus. Students with a mental health concern can benefit from a summer care plan.
Setting up treatment at home with a new/different provider, keeping in touch with a college counselor while at home, or practicing self-help are options. Making the decision in collaboration with a team of supports can also be helpful.
Some of my conversations with students have turned into lovely brainstorms about how to keep up with therapy goals and stay connected to skills over summer. The following are ideas we would like to share:
1) Keep learning.
College counselors often use psychoeducational materials, workbooks and bibliotherapy to aid in treatment progress during the school year. Students can explore similar materials in depth over summer. Before ending treatment for the year, identify helpful books, worksheets, or practices that may be helpful to try.
2) Stay in touch.
Although staying in counseling may not be possible over the summer, it might be helpful for students to stay in contact with the counseling center in some way. Even one phone call or email might help to provide an update, provide consultation, or just keep the relationship in mind. Students can also talk about how to plan ways of keeping in touch with friends over summer.
3) Practice new skills.
One of the most requested resources this year was an article online about how to respond to criticism during the holidays. After recognizing family conversations about weight and food culminated in guilt, some of my clients had heartfelt, assertive talks with loved-ones while on break. Practicing new ways of communicating or trying out new behaviors can be a step toward confidence in skills. Especially in environments where skills were not previously tried, or where old dynamics uphold unhelpful patterns.
4) Try new ways of being independent.
Finding success at college can be an exercise in developing independence. Students don’t have to give up ‘adulting’ when returning home from break. Find ways of keeping routines such as managing money, shopping, spending time with friends and getting around. Have conversations with family about roles at school and routines that have become the norm. Negotiate and compromise new ways of being.
Talking with students about self-care over summer and planning ahead can produce great ideas. Students are resourceful and find unique ways to care for mental health, create wellness and safety. Firming up and planning to enact resources can mean that summer is less stressful, and help with readiness to return to school in fall.
Amy Rosechandler, MS, LMHC is a counselor in Rochester, NY working with teens and adults at a local university counseling center and in her own private practice, Clarity Mental Health Counseling. Amy adores group counseling, youth development, and strengths based approaches to therapy.
Read more about Amy at http://claritymentalhealth.org/about.php