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Succeed on Campus: How Mental Health Counseling Helps College Students

College students face a multitude of challenges while pursuing academic and personal goals, such as financial stress, uncertainty in their future, family problems, and more. To excel in their studies, students must manage their academic workload while also maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family. In addition, they must cope with stress and anxiety, which can be overwhelming to their overall well-being. To address these challenges, mental health counseling and resources are indispensable for college students.  Counseling has proven to be effective on various populations, but it has affected college students differently, from academic success to emotional well-being. Improving accessibility to counseling resources for college students is crucial, especially for campuses that have underutilized wellness centers. 

Counseling is an effective method to improve a student's academic performance.  It has helped students with psychological stress and leads to improvement in grades for clinically distressed students. A study by Kivlighan et al. (2021) aimed to determine how counseling affected college students' grades.  Students who had at least two counseling sessions in the university counseling center were included in the analyses. It found that students' GPAs increased significantly after receiving counseling compared to their GPAs before counseling.  A counselor’s involvement in addressing students' psychological distress enhances their academic performance as shown in the increase in their GPAs. According to a study by Schwitzer et al. (2019), students who consistently attended counseling sessions had higher GPAs and were more likely to graduate than students who only attended one session or no sessions. This study confirms the findings of previous research on the topic. Even students primarily concerned with grades can benefit. Counseling can give students the coping mechanisms that they need and also vent their frustrations. When students receive counseling to alleviate their distress, they can focus on academics instead of leaving school due to poor mental health. 

However, academic success is only one facet of a student's life. Emotional well-being is equally important, especially given the rising incidence of mental health issues among college students. A study by Worsley et al. (2022), from 1999 to 2020, showed that psychological interventions and counseling significantly reduced mental health difficulties common in college students. It has been proven that mental health counseling has helped people, and that is proven even in a population like college students. Being in a professional setting that is designed to help and learn how to deal with problems can help students with their emotional well-being. No matter how much counseling helps there is still an increase in college students having poor mental health. 

In recent decades, college students' distress has been increasing, and an increasing number of students are experiencing distress, including generalized anxiety, depression, and other related disorders. According to a study conducted by Xiao et al. (2017), there has been a rise in the number of students experiencing distress between 2010 and 2015. Additionally, there has been a slight increase in the number of students scheduling and attending appointments at local wellness centers. These findings highlight the importance of having wellness centers in schools and communities to support the growing number of college students who are experiencing distress. Students might be going to counseling sessions because there is more exposure and accessibility to mental health resources on campus. 

Despite the benefits of mental health counseling, many students underutilize these services. Systemic barriers, such as long wait times and insufficient information about available resources, are among the reasons for the underutilization of mental health services among college students. Additionally, certain minority and marginalized groups may be hesitant to seek counseling due to cultural expectations or other factors. In a study (Choi et al., 2019), 276 Mexican-American women who attend college were selected to see the impact of their religious and cultural values on their willingness to get therapy. It was concluded that the women who adhered to religious and cultural values were less willing to go to therapy because of self-stigma. This is not only found in the Latinx community but among Asian American college students as well. Han and Pong (2015) mentioned that Asians or Asian Americans who adhered more to Asian cultural values were less willing to seek therapy because it is seen as embarrassing or disgraceful to their families. It is common for individuals from many cultures to be unwilling to seek therapy due to religious or cultural beliefs. Therefore, it is important to raise awareness and promote mental health counseling as a normal and accessible means of support. By doing so, people can receive the assistance they need to improve their mental well-being.

By identifying and addressing barriers, colleges and universities can ensure students access to the necessary support to succeed academically and emotionally. Mental health counseling and resources are essential for helping students overcome the challenges they face and achieve their goals. CUNY has a lot of mental health resources that should be taken advantage of. Some of them are listed below, utilizing these resources is important. 


  1. Choi, Kim, H. Y., & Gruber, E. (2019). Mexican American Women College Students’ Willingness to Seek Counseling: The Role of Religious Cultural Values, Etiology Beliefs, and Stigma. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 66(5), 577–587. 

  2. Han, & Pong, H. (2015). Mental Health Help-Seeking Behaviors Among Asian American Community College Students: The Effect of Stigma, Cultural Barriers, and Acculturation. Journal of College Student Development, 56(1), 1–14.

  3. Kivlighan, Schreier, B. A., Gates, C., Hong, J. E., Corkery, J. M., Anderson, C. L., & Keeton, P. M. (2021). The Role of Mental Health Counseling in College Students’ Academic Success: An Interrupted Time Series Analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 68(5), 562–570. 

  4. Marsh, & Wilcoxon, S. A. (2015). Underutilization of Mental Health Services Among College Students: An Examination of System-Related Barriers. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 29(3), 227–243. 

  5. Schwitzer, Moss, C. B., Pribesh, S. L., St. John, D. J., Burnett, D. D., Thompson, L. H., & Foss, J. J. (2018). Students With Mental Health Needs: College Counseling Experiences and Academic Success. Journal of College Student Development, 59(1), 3–20.

  6. Worsley, J. D., Pennington, A., & Corcoran, R. (2022). Supporting mental health and wellbeing of university and college students: A systematic review of review-level evidence of interventions. PloS One, 17(7), e0266725–e0266725. 

  7. Xiao, Carney, D. M., Youn, S. J., Janis, R. A., Castonguay, L. G., Hayes, J. A., & Locke, B. D. (2017). Are We in Crisis? National Mental Health and Treatment Trends in College Counseling Centers. Psychological Services, 14(4), 407–415. 

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