Great options for college student therapy in Downtown NYC
Our Downtown NYC therapy practice is particularly successful in providing therapy for young adults and college students. Critical to providing good treatment is recognizing the challenges in engagement. Young adults–even when aware that they need help–will likely be quick to run away if they feel that a therapist is judging them, attempting to control their choices or if they assess that the therapist won’t be able to relate to them.
Balancing trust and parent’s concerns in therapy with college students
At Tribeca Therapy, we recognize the balance needed between the need for college students to be related to as adults with fully confidential therapy while also appreciating that their parents have a stake in their therapy and are often quite concerned. We are skilled at navigating this balance so that students feel they have privacy while also recognizing that parents can be an asset in treatment.
Therapy for college students that’s not old and stodgy
Our approach is dynamic and fresh. We aren’t the “tell me about your mother” or “let’s figure out what’s wrong with you” sort of therapists. We work creatively to find out how to make a partnership with young adults that is respectful, based in trust and also includes room for being demanding when needed.
Much of this comes from our own practice, which is young but experienced. We aren’t out of touch and talk to young adults all the time. Our therapists are musicians and artists, which adds to the creative environment in our downtown therapy office.
Similarly, we do a good deal of therapy with teenagers and young adults and are connected to issues they deal with. Issues related to sex and dating, drugs and drinking, depression and anxiety and academic pressures aren’t topics that will freak us out. We can handle it.
College as time of transition
Leaving home to attend college after high school is a time of immense transition and developmental and emotional challenges. It is is a conflicting state of being both legally an adult and charged with adults responsibilities and decisions while still clearly needing guidance from parents. Negotiating these ambivalent and, at times, contradictory experiences makes the experience of transitioning into adulthood scary for both young adults and their parents.
New York City as College Campus
Attending college in New York City comes with particular challenges. The traditional notion of dorm life and a secluded campus is not a reality. College campuses in NYC are spread out and students travel throughout the city. In a sense, New York City is their campus. In addition to all that is appealing about what the city has to offer, there are unique challenges that come with a crowded, diverse, massive metropolis. Just as teenagers who grow up in NYC grow up fast, many of the pressures of adulthood that come with college are accelerated in New York. For students who aren’t from New York–even those savvy about urban life, going to school in New York can mean not just learning how college works but also learning to navigate New York City to both feel safe and to take fullest advantage of what New York has to offer. Because we are experienced working with college students, we are familiar with both the challenges and resources of most colleges in NYC and can help students navigate and make the most use of these offerings.
The challenges faced by college students and young adults:
Academic challenges and pressures
Many young people struggle with the academic independence that college allows. Getting to class on time, managing assignments, choosing classes and knowing when to ask for help all take more initiative than in high school. If a young adult struggles with time management or organization, there are fewer safety nets to catch them and draw attention to the problem–perhaps until these struggles are reflected in grades.
While the challenge of getting into college may still be fresh on their minds, once college begins; there are a whole new set of academic pressures. The work may be more difficult, expectations are higher and, for those prone to competitiveness, it can seem like they are always surrounded by someone who is working harder or better prepared. Students who aspire to competitive careers or graduate schools, as well as first generation college students, may especially experience challenges.
While many of these challenges may feel like the domain of tutors or learning specialists, therapy may also play a critical role in helping students manage the responsibilities of college, accept that they may have certain limitations and therefore, need particular kinds of help, and identify emotional issues that may complicate both their ability to perform to a high standard, as well as manage disappointment if they may fall short.
Making friends and building a social life
College is not only a time to grow academically but also socially, and all colleges have built-in activities and organizations to help with that. That doesn’t mean all young people feel capable of making sense of this new landscape. Making friends in college is often different than in high school and is often troubling for individuals who find themselves less outgoing, anxious in social settings or identify as having interests outside of the norm.
College students frequently discuss with us challenges related to making friends in ways that don’t involve alcohol, making friends as a person of color, navigating social situations that demand connecting with strangers (like in the cafeteria) and finding “their people.” We work to create a partnership that takes these challenges on together, trying new strategies, taking increasingly bigger risks and dealing with the disappointments and celebrating the successes that follow.
Therapy for depression and anxiety
The first year of college is period of time when symptoms of depression or anxiety are likely to emerge or become exacerbated. All of the pressures that we’re discussing here can contribute to these experiences. While perhaps counter-intuitive, the early months of college are a period of coming into one’s own and reflecting on family relationships quite intensely by virtue of being away from home and gaining the perspective that that distance brings. For many young adults, college may fail to meet expectations of academic success, the right fit or a vibrant social or dating life. Perhaps high school was disappointing and college was arrived at with great expectations of making up for that experience.
As with at any moment in life, depression and anxiety can grow and linger and become in various ways debilitating. Getting the right help to make sense of emergent adulthood and the myriad emotional experiences that come at this time of transition can help students make strong choices about how to maneuver through their academic and social lives.
Therapy for Drug and Alcohol abuse
While young people today are exposed to drugs and alcohol in high school or even earlier, most college students find the availability of both drugs and alcohol, as well as the pressure to use and abuse these substances, intense. As much as most parents would prefer their children not indulge at all, many young people do. If young adults are going to invest in therapy, they need a place that is light on judgment and heavy on understanding. Our task as therapists isn’t to make decisions for young adults but rather, to help them explore options and consequences, better understand the pressures they experience and make safe choices if they do choose to use drugs or alcohol.
If drug and alcohol use accelerates to the point of binge drinking or other kinds of substance abuse, the task of making serious changes in one’s relationships with these substances, including sustained abstinence, can be a more serious task. At the extreme, substance abuse programs, including detox and rehab may be involved, though outpatient treatment–perhaps coordinated with on-campus and community services–may be sufficient. Doing this work, alongside therapeutic work on issues related to mental health, allows a young person’s relationship with drugs and alcohol to be examined and reformed alongside an understanding of other issues that relate to who they are emotionally, developmentally and academically.
Sexuality and sexual orientation
College is a time when many young adults explore their sexuality. While fully mature physically, most college students are still new to sex and sexuality. Creating a space where young adults feel comfortable talking about sex is a strength of our therapists and a non-judgmental stance is key. The object isn’t to insist on a particular set of values or practices, but to support young people to understand their bodies and the feelings that accompany sex and attraction, and to make conscious, sober-light-of-day decisions about where they stand. This can include creating a map, of sorts, of their sexual values–a better understanding what they need in order to make decisions about sex to feel safe and have fun with a partner.
Sexual orientation is in focus at this moment in life. If young adults find themselves attracted to the same sex, they may need help making sense of this attraction, talking to their parents and friends about this–when ready–and dealing with the bias that’s inevitably present even on the most progressive campuses. It is important to recognize that suicide rates are higher among LGTBQ individuals and to give these young adults the help they need.
Sex, of course, can come with a number of consequences. While most college students are well versed in options for contraception, the challenges of discussing these choices with a partner and deciding what actions to take if contraception isn’t used or fails.
The issue of consent and sexual assault has been front and center recently–not only on college campuses but nationwide. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly clear the universities are often falling short in educating students to prevent sexual assault, as well as in investigating alleged assaults and protecting victims.
When it comes to prevention, it’s important to recognize that alcohol is most often a factor in these assaults. Students who are educated and confident in their relationship with alcohol and students who build strong relationships with their peers and organize to look out for one another are two key factors in preventing rape in college.
For victims of sexual assault on college campuses, as under any circumstances, it is important that they be believed and that, in addition to receiving appropriate medical treatment, good mental health care is vital. Too often, victims feel ashamed, are embarrassed and ostracized and fall behind or drop out of college. While a break or change in college may be helpful, treating the trauma and helping a victim regain a sense of safety is multifaceted. It’s also important to note that most sexual assaults on colleges campuses don’t get reported and at times, a victim may not tell anyone or even understand that they have been assaulted. It is only in the context of a trusting environment that young adults can get the support they need to make sense of a recovery from sexual assault.
Body-image and eating disorders
Unfortunately, how young people see and relate to food and their bodies is a pressing concern. College, with its increased academic and social pressures, can exacerbate insecurities about looks and cause many young adults to restrict their diet or over-exercise in an effort to control their bodies.
At the extreme, eating disorders can require residential treatment. When needed, we aren’t shy about accessing those resources. But it’s important to recognize that less-severe difficulties with restricted eating or other kinds of negative images of one’s body are incredibly common. It is impossible, of course, to separate these issues from other pressures and emotional challenges.
We’re all familiar with the credit card solicitation that college students receive in volume. Creditors target college students, of course, not because they are a safe credit risk, but exactly because they are not. College students are likely to accumulate debt and therefore, high returns on interest on those cards. As with many challenges faced in college, the independence of managing money is one college students often face for the first time. Money is nearly always an emotionally laden issue and the challenges for many young adults in managing their new responsibilities with money can go beyond just practical concerns.
Aside from the practical development of learning how to manage money, the college students we work with discuss feeling as though they’re burdening parents, anxiety about finding work and paying off loans after college and pressure to keep up with other students’ spending. Money can be symbolic of other issues that are hard to look at–like safety and status. We work to look at money challenges holistically to unpack the emotional issues beneath the surface so that young adults can develop a healthy relationship with the emotional aspects of money.
Money, race and class
Students of color, outside of historically black colleges, will most likely find themselves in the minority on most college campuses. While many colleges do a terrific job supporting these students, others perhaps do so less well. Building community, managing expectations from family and friends back home, and dealing with racism–both overt and institutional–are just some of the challenges these young people face.
Money and class can be similarly challenging. While colleges in New York City are diverse, young people who come from modest backgrounds often find themselves at a disadvantage when compared to the affluence–or relative affluence–of their peers. Differences in class and wealth that may not have been apparent in a high school where most families are of a similar economic bracket can become striking and raise insecurities for students.
Students talk to us about feeling like an alien around peers of means and feeling judged. They also feel a sense of conflict between being around money and the opportunities it presents while their families are living under different circumstances. Students can be exposed to different ways of talking–both literally and metaphorically–that can embody class and status and struggle with not fitting in on campus or at home. We work to help young adults recognize the ways this is happening and make active choices about who they want to be in relationship to status, wealth and class.
Developing new kinds of relationships with parents
The process of establishing independence is just that–a process. College is a time of self-exploration and with it, comes a reconsideration of many beliefs and values that may have been taken for granted before. Distance–whether geographical or not–also brings perspective. In addition to reconsidering beliefs, young people find themselves in college looking at where they’ve come from, including their parents, in a new light.
No matter what, adult relationships just aren’t the same as those we have as children or adolescents. This shift can be challenging for both adults and their becoming-adult children. At times, both the change in perspective and the change in roles can be startling and upend a host of difficult and confusing emotions at what is already a challenging time.
Career and post-college life
While the experience of college produces many benefits, its role as launchpad for a career is central to its purpose. Setting career objectives and making decisions about majors and graduate school are often emotional challenges that are loaded with expectations from family. While colleges tend to provide excellent resources, anxiety about future uncertainties can interfere with the process of exploring options and making clear decisions.