How to find or transition mental health support as a college freshman
Updated: Sep 3
Things to know as you get ready to make the transition from home town to college:
Therapists are licensed by states to treat patients who are in that state. So if you see a therapist in Pittsfield and go to college on the Cape -- you are in luck. You can continue to see your therapist thanks to telehealth with no interruption in service.
If you are changing states, that's when you have to re-examine your services. Your Pittsfield therapist cannot continue to see you if you are in a state they are not licensed in, unless you are close enough to drive back to see them for in-person sessions.
Colleges have excellent mental health and academic support resources so hustle right into your student advising center to make your initial appointment. Be sure to check out the physical building so you don't talk yourself out of getting help because you don't want to be seen going into the mental health center -- counseling is often part of student advising or health centers, so you could be going there for a schedule change or a cold. (Also, no one cares as much as you think they do, but that's a subject for another post!) You may be able to get better ADHD or learning disability supports than you've ever gotten to date because colleges do this very well. You may be able to see a mental health therapist for a certain number of sessions per semester and if you need additional on-going therapy, you should be able to get help with referrals to a local off-campus therapist.
If you decide to look for your own therapist:
Call your insurance company to check what their coverage is for your current state, or use the insurance company's website to find providers in your current state. Remember, with telehealth, you can see anyone in your new state!
Use therapy databases like TherapyDen, Headway, Therapy for Black Girls, Advekit, or Psychology Today. Many of these databases allow searches for who's currently accepting new patients, whether they offer telehealth or in-person, what issues you want to work on, and what insurance you have. Notice how I'm not recommending Better Health or Talk Space.
When you contact providers, let them know your specific insurance plan and your availability -- providers might have day time openings, and rarely have 4:00 or later availability, so as a college student with a more flexible schedule, that is a plus! Let them know you would like to go on their wait list. Let the therapist know what general issues you want to work on, so they have a sense of if it would be a good fit. Follow up in a few weeks with anyone you're really interested in in order to see if anything has changed.
If you're wondering if therapy is for you, this is an important article in the Globe regarding treating mental health issues in high school. The author, Jasmine Wynn, is described as a "political activist based in New York. She is an incoming freshman at Harvard University" so this makes me hope that she is able to transition her important mental health treatment from New York to Massachusetts!
Finally: congratulations! Good luck! Don't be surprised if it feels a little rocky at first, it's a big change. You will adjust, and each semester will be more and more interesting! Enjoy this next amazing step!