up2date. Das Onlinemagazin der Universtiät Bremen

Getting Out of a Slump

Around 1,000 students contact the Psychological Counselling Centre of the Bremen Studierendenwerk every year. The counseling team is there for you

Campus Life

You’re finished with your lectures for this semester. Now everyone is looking forward to the lecture-free period and dreaming of laid-back spring evenings by the Weser River again. Everyone – except you? No worries, a little slump at the end of the semester is completely normal. However, if you’ve been feeling stressed for a while, talking to the experts at the Psychological Counselling Centre (PBS) of the Studierendenwerk Bremen might help. In addition to individual counseling sessions, there are also groups where you can talk about your experiences with other students. The up2date. editorial team talked to Cordula Schrör, head of the PBS, who answered the most important questions.

How do I know if I need help?

Above all, because you feel more stressed than usual. “Students come to us and report that stress, which up until then has been rather temporary, no longer disappears at all,” explains Cordula Schrör. The psychological counselor explains that some people seeking advice even develop anxiety, which gradually increases. “Things that used to be easy seem now like an insurmountable task to them. Those affected notice that they are withdrawing more and more. Which is not a solution, of course.”

However, the situation is not always so clear-cut. Just as often, students come to Schrör and her team unsure of what exactly is going on with them. They often are looking for a second opinion: How do others perceive my problem? Am I just procrastinating, or do I have a major issue? Could my behavior be masking a deeper conflict? Or do I just lack the practical tools to develop a learning and working structure that suits me? “We look at all of this together during our counseling session,” says Schrör.

What happens during my first visit to the PBS?

First, the counselors look whether the student has more of a mental health problem or whether it is a topic for social counseling. Two different teams are responsible for this at the PBS. The initial contact with the office will clarify which option is better suited to help you.

The social counseling team provides advice on various topics, such as tips on how to overcome financial difficulties. There are special counseling services for student parents as well as for international students (for example on the subject of residence status) and much more.

In the mental health sessions, the topics range from common student problems (why can’t I finish my bachelor’s thesis?) to personal crises (why am I always so irritable lately?). In the first two consultations, the counselors work with you to find out exactly where you would like support. “Of course, we first would like to get to know the person seeking advice,” says Schrör. This allows her and her colleagues to make a good initial assessment of the problem. “We take around 50 minutes. The first appointment usually ends with us developing a mutual idea of what goals we are working towards. Then we plan the next steps.”

How exactly can the PBS help me?

The PBS offers a mixture of individual counseling and group sessions. For example, counseling can help you to better recognize and strengthen your problem-solving skills. “Sometimes all you need is a nudge in the right direction. Doing something for yourself also supports your self-esteem,” explains Schrör. It often helps students to realize that they are not alone with their problem. This is why the various workshops are so important. The PBS has workshops on work structuring, a group for students with a mental illness, and a group for students with AD(H)S. “In addition, we offer a workshop on test anxiety and one on speech anxiety every semester,” Schrör states.

And what happens if I have the feeling that it’s not helping me at all?

Then the PBS is still there for you. “If we notice that our services are not suitable, we point the way to other professional services,” explains Schrör. Providing information about further steps outside the PBS is an integral part of their advisory work. “If we suspect an illness that requires treatment, we discuss this with our client and, if necessary, refer them for further clarification, for example to a registered psychotherapist. We then support the student in their search.” On their website is a video with information on finding a therapist (currently in German only). The Studierendenwerk’s website also lists emergency contacts for those experiencing a serious mental health crisis.

Who will find out that I went to the PBS?

Nobody – unless you tell them yourself. The PBS is subject to strict confidentiality. This even applies to your health insurance company. So you don’t need to be afraid that professors or lecturers will find out. But hey: if someone does make a stupid remark, do not let it put you off. “The fact that students seek help only shows that they are taking responsibility for themselves. Pursuing a degree is stressful enough. No one can do it without self-care,” Schrör states.

Further Information

The Psychological Counselling Centre is located in the University of Bremen Central Campus Building below the Mensa cafeteria. Appointments can be made either by calling 22 01 - 1 13 10 or by dropping in from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays. They also offer online counseling. Here, students from Bremen’s universities can register anonymously and then access initial counseling via email. The Psychological Counselling Centre services are offered free of charge to students at the university and higher education institutions in Bremen and Bremerhaven.

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