Special Topics - Emotional Health: A Guide for International Students
A Guide for International Students at American University
Our Invitation to You
If you are having a difficult time emotionally (for example, you are feeling stressed, lonely, angry, sad, frustrated, or confused) or you are concerned about some aspect of your behavior (for example, your eating/sleeping, relationships, or alcohol/drug use), you are invited to come in and consult with a Counseling Center counselor. There is no charge, and your contact with the Center is confidential: your counselor will not speak to your parents, your teachers, or anyone else without your explicit written permission, as specified by law and ethical standards.
For more information about how the Counseling Center can be helpful to you, call x3500 and make an appointment to meet a counselor, or visit our Web site: www.american.edu/ocl/counseling.
The Challenges of Being an International Student
As an international student coming to AU from another country and culture, you may face special challenges in your efforts to thrive here. Examples include:
- homesickness and loneliness
- adjusting to a new academic and social environment
- culture-shock or language barriers
- finding friends from different countries, cultures, languages, or religions
- cultural misunderstandings and prejudice
- other difficulties in fully engaging in university life
Additionally, you may have life concerns not directly related to being an international student that you wish to talk about with an understanding and supportive listener. Such concerns are appropriate to bring to the Counseling Center for a confidential conversation. A counselor can help you sort out your situation, your feelings, your choices, and the resources that might be of help to you. If the support you need is not available on campus, a counselor can help you locate private resources off campus.
Many international students hold assumptions or fears about what it means to seek out counseling. Perhaps in your home culture, speaking with a counselor is seen as shameful, an indication of personal failure or weakness, or a sign that someone is "crazy." You may feel that an American counselor will not understand or respect you. Such assumptions can make it especially difficult for international students to ask for the support they need. In American culture, however, students use counseling more freely, as a way to take better control of their lives and to do their best in school.
Counseling/Psychotherapy in American Culture
The Counseling Center at American University provides support to all students, including students trying to get through stressful situations or trying to better understand themselves or their lives. We encourage students to seek out appropriate support as needed – to do so is a sign of their wisdom and strength. The counselors at the Counseling Center recognize and respect the wide range of cultural contexts from which AU students come, and all counselors are trained to work with students from a variety of cultures. We welcome you, and invite you to come to the Counseling Center for a private discussion of how we can help you succeed in school and in your personal life.
Resources at the AU Counseling Center
The Counseling Center offers the following services to all students, to help you cope with the demands of university life and achieve your potential as a scholar and a person:
- Crisis Support
- Individual Appointments for Consultation and Assessment
- Psychotherapy Groups and Support Groups
- Referrals to Private Care
- Workshops and Presentations
- Self-Help Resources
A conversation with a counselor at the Counseling Center will help you determine what sort of support you need, and if you need services that are not available on campus, your counselor can help you find appropriate and affordable off- campus services. (Ongoing mental health services, such as psychotherapy and psychiatric treatment, are generally considered a personal health care responsibility, not a service provided by the University. A counselor can help you connect with whatever services you need.)
If you would like to learn more about the nature of mental health care in American culture, try these web links:
American Psychological Association: The Effectiveness of Psychotherapy
American Psychiatric Association: Psychotherapy
American Psychological Association Brochure: How Psychotherapy Helps People Recover from Depression
American Psychological Association Brochure: How to Find Help Through Psychotherapy
If you have questions, or would like more information about how the Counseling Center can be helpful to you, please call x3500, or visit the Counseling Center’s Web site:
© 2003 Abigail Lipson, American University Counseling Center