Psychotherapy for Student Mental Health and Wellbeing; Where we are and where we can go

By Amber Sager

For students to succeed they need to be physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually well. There are clear advantages for both the students and schools in expanding mental health services on campus to include psychotherapy and counselling.

Things are getting worse with regard to post-secondary student mental health. Recent studies show that “about half of post-secondary students with mental health disabilities will experience the onset of their condition over the course of their post-secondary education.

  • 44.4% of surveyed students were “so depressed it was difficult to function.”
  • 13% had seriously considered suicide
  • 2.1% had attempted suicide
  • 18.4% reported being “diagnosed or treated by a professional” for anxiety
  • 45.7% reported having their education disrupted due to disability
  • 41% reported discontinuing their education due to disability.” (Max, A. & Waters, R., 2016)

Students who struggle are more likely to drop out of school, but providing psychotherapy services can help them manage issues, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, substance abuse, stress, problems in your relationships, family troubles and phobias.

 For post-secondary institutions, retention should be the focus since well-adjusted and emotionally secure students mean they can maintain a longer tenure with the college. Research suggests that investing in mental health services in post-secondary, such as psychotherapy and counselling can help keep students from being early leavers. This is important for schools since they want to retain tuition revenue, but more importantly, it helps secure significantly higher lifetime earnings for the students, potentially greater job security and happiness in their post-secondary decision making.

Most importantly, accessibility and early intervention offers students the ability to focus on their overall wellbeing and relief of suffering. Offering psychotherapy services within post-secondary is a way of connecting students much faster to the treatment they need.

Therapy gives us a sacred place where we can explore who we are, and that’s to be valued. People often come to therapy with a variety of concerns about one or more aspects of their lives. Like College, we go to therapy when we want to have a full education of our emotions, thoughts, sensations, and ways of relating that we might be unaware of, and that contribute to the issues we face. Psychotherapy can help increase self-understanding, reduce isolation, work through issues, provide support during difficult times, develop strategies for feeling better and find options for managing symptoms.

More and more, students who are struggling to cope with mental health issues acknowledge the importance of seeking help. Suffering in silence is no longer a viable solution. The challenge now is to make sure effective services are available to respond to the extensive range of issues. Offering psychotherapy services helps to support students as they work through the personal challenges that impair their ability to succeed in all areas of their life. This is an opportunity for post-secondary institutions to become frontrunners in offerings effective care for the mental health and well being of its students.

About The Author

Psychotherapist at Durham College & UOIT Health & Wellness Centre and graduate of OPC, Amber Sager, explores the importance of mental health services on campus.

Amber also works in a private practice in Toronto as well as Northumberland County as a Psychodynamic therapist for individuals and couples of all ages.

Visit Ambers Website: