Your First Semester at College Survival Guide

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As a high school senior you were on top of the food chain. You probably knew your school like the back of your hand and best of all you were comfortable. August is finally here and the fall college semester will begin soon. Some of you are heading to schools where you will be one of thousands of students, others are heading to small schools in which you will be one of hundreds. Either way it is a BIG change and college anxiety is real. 

Here are some ways to ease your mind and look forward to your first day of college: 

1. Purchase the essentials: Aside the typical dorm items, remember to purchase school supplies and your books. Show up to class prepared and ready to take notes (even if it is the first day of class). In college professors will expect you to always be prepared to learn, there is no movie day or freebie. 

2. Go explore the campus: Learn where your dorm is, the nearest dining halls and where your classes are. Learn to take the bus and time how long you take to reach your destination. This will help you plan how much time you have between classes. 

3. Get to know your professors: No, you do not have to take them to lunch, but introduce yourself during a class break and research their ratings on www.ratemyprofessor.com or a similar website  (this will make you aware of their teaching style and personality).  

4. Get to know your roommates: Spend time together, talk, go out to eat and learn what you have in common. Your roommates can be a great part of your college experience (they still are a great part of my life). You will be living with them so make the best of it and work on building a friendship. 

5. Have a schedule: Write down and plan out your day (from start to finish). This will help ease your stress and increase your timeliness. You can add lunch, time with friends, work out time, study hours and quizzes to all fit your schedule. 

6. Have fun: Take the time to join clubs and make friends. College is not just about your studies. It is a great opportunity to make social connections (future work connections are always great) and explore the things that really interest you. This will help you find your identity, which can help you choose a career that aligns with who you are. 

Prepare yourself for a year of learning, fun and exciting new ventures! College is what you make of it. Remember to take one day at a time. Patience is key to learning your way around, adapting to a new environment and surviving your first semester.  

Summer Loving

Hi all! I would like to introduce myself. My name is Bridgette, and I am a counseling student at the University of South Florida. I have been working with Mrs. Stephanie as her Administrative Assistant for the past year. Some of you may know me from our phone conversations, or by my assistance in the therapy room during my practicum experience. I am happy to share that I will be graduating next summer with my master’s degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling, and will be a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and a registered counseling intern with the state of Florida. I enjoy writing in my spare time, as I find it to be a fun form of self-expression. Mrs. Stephanie has asked that I join her in contributing to our blog, and I am thrilled to share my first post!

Aaah, it’s sweet summertime!  Our kids are out of school, or if we don’t have children at home, perhaps we’ve decided to take some time for ourselves this summer. Whether vacationing, stay-cationing, or simply taking some time to relax when we have a moment of peace after work, summertime can be ideal for connecting with oneself again, and refocusing on what is most important to us.  

Summertime can serve as a great time to reconnect with our values, strengthen coping mechanisms, and re-center ourselves. For school aged children, teens, and young adults, summer may serve as the ideal time to begin therapy. Oftentimes when planning for summer we think of all of the most enriching possible activities out there. We register our kids for a great summer camp, and plan educational trips to museums. We plan picnics outside at the beach, and splurge on all access passes to Adventure Island, (anything to beat the scorching Florida heat). We take time to travel, and to be outdoors. What we often overlook during the summer is helping our young ones, and ourselves, to work on our mental health.

The benefits of therapy are innumerable. Research indicates that 75% of individuals who enter therapy show some benefit (APA, 2017). The following are some benefits of attending therapy over the summer as I have identified. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and as you are reading I encourage you to open yourself up to what benefits you could see for yourself of going to therapy.

  • Gain coping mechanisms In counseling we cultivate coping mechanisms that will be carried with us far beyond our time in the therapy room. Oftentimes when life throws us barriers, we develop coping mechanisms that don’t serve us. We may not even be aware of what these maladaptive mechanisms are. In therapy we learn to identify our not so helpful coping mechanisms, and to find what is healthy, and what works for us.

  • Manage our stress The summer can be an ideal time to take a break from our usual routine, and to work through out stressors with our therapist. The act of going to therapy itself may also serve to reduce stress. Therapy means having regularly scheduled appointments to look forward to for y-o-u.

  • Improve our concentration Whether we have a break from responsibilities this summer, or if we are still engaged in school and work, summer can be an excellent time to refocus, and to gain skills to help us concentrate throughout the year.

  • Cultivate self-esteem It’s the dreaded time of year again when we get to see the beautiful (beautifully photoshopped) models showing off their tans and their ‘beach bodies’. Rather than focusing on trying to look like the celebrities we see, this summer perhaps we can turn inward to work on cultivating our self-esteem.

  • Get a handle on our anxiety and depression Although we often think of wintertime as a time that individuals most often feel depressed and anxious, summertime can often bring those feelings to the forefront of our lives. The extra time off may be a relief, but it may also bring to light feelings we are coping with all year long. In therapy we can gain the skills we need to cope with feelings of anxiety and depression.

  • Gaining insight of ourselves Our modern society doesn’t often provide us with opportunity (or time) to take a step back and think about ourselves as individuals. Therapy, for some, may be the first opportunity for a higher level of introspection, and may be an opportunity to feel truly heard and understood by a compassionate listener.

If you or a loved one has been on the fence about when the right time for counseling is, I hope you consider taking time for yourself this summer to find a counselor who is a good fit for you or your loved ones needs. Whether you are reading this post this summer, or if it’s any time of the year, I encourage you to find a clinician who will work alongside you while you work on yourself.

What does domestic violence teach children?

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Domestic violence is a private matter that has been brought into the public eye much in part to the NFL and the poor decisions of some football players. Many of us have heard the story about Ray Rice's wife and about their troubled marriage. Much of the talk about domestic violence is usually spent discussing what the parents are experiencing and although this is important, I ask "what about the kids?" Many people do not realize how domestic violence impacts a child's physical, mental and emotional development. 

By witnessing domestic violence a child can learn.....   

that hitting or yelling at others is an appropriate way of communicating 
hitting or yelling equals respect 
by hitting or yelling other people listen to you
physical strength is more important than anything else
to have difficulty trusting other adults and parents
to fight peers at school and break things at home
that a foundation for a relationship is fighting 
in all relationships someone must be submissive
physical strength is emotional strength
that all men or women are violent (depending on who is the abuser) 
the poor ability to cope with stress or anxiety 
the poor ability to resolve problems without fighting or arguing 
to have low self esteem related to self blame for the domestic violence
to be afraid when other people are yelling around the 
to hide their problems in the face of fear 
to not trust mom and dad since they can barely trust themselves 
to be insecure with themselves and others 
and that all adults are violent people  


Domestic violence is violence against a family unit, everyone is impacted. Children are very much affected by what they see and hear at home. A simple verbal argument among adults can start a downward spiral in their young minds. If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence relationship, I ask that you please find help, maybe not for yourself but definitely for your children. 

Parents have no fear, August is here!

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As the days of the new school year are slowly approaching, the summer calm is winding down. Parents are excited for their children to leave the house and be back at school. As much as I hear parents cheering, their children are not. Now if we could all just be on the same page? 

Here are some great ways for everyone to slowly transition back to school while still being in the "summer" mindset!

1. Set an adjusted bed time: Simulating a "school night" bed time prior to the start of school, will help your family begin to feel as if back to school is almost here. This is a tool to ease your kids in transitioning to an ideal bed time!

2. Schedule a time for homework: Many kids have to read books or complete projects during summer break. Right now would be a great time to make sure these assignments are completed and will be turned in on time. Sit with your kids, ask them to schedule a couple of hours a day for school work during their last summer weeks. If no homework needs to be completed, assign them homework assignments (you can find simulated school worksheets online). 

3. Plan back to school snacks: This can help ease children back to their school routine and increase their excitement for the new school year. Talk about healthy and tasty snacks that they may enjoy eating their first week back at school. This will give them something to look forward to! 

4. Go back to school shopping: For many children this is the best part of back to school. The new sneakers, shirts, notebooks and markers. Plan a budget together and go shopping together! Encourage your child to pick out an agenda book and notebooks, that they can use to start the year in an organized fashion. 

5. Explore the school: This is a must if your child will be attending a new school! It will help calm their nerves on the first day of class. Go tour the school together and find where their class is, the nearest bathrooms, office and lunch room. 

6. Talk about making and keeping friends: Discussing with your child how to meet new friends and maintain old friends is a social skill that they can always have handy. Practice meeting new kids through role-plays, to help calm their anxiety. Some children are more excited about meeting new friends and will use this as motivation for wanting to go back to school. 

Make these last weeks a back to school practice, by reminding your child of all the positive activities that await this new school year!

How is your teens self esteem?

As parents most of you believe you are in touch with your teen and would be able to tell if there was a problem growing at school or at home. One of the easiest ways to be aware about how your teen is feeling is to pay attention to how self confident they are feeling or acting.  Is your teen isolated, have little to no friends, are they talkative, are they moody or do you simply not know any of these answers? 

If you are unsure of your teen's self esteem level, here are some steps you can take to learn about their self confidence: 

1. Keep an open dialect: Ask, listen and summarize when you have conversations. This will help establish trust and keep your relationship growing. If they are answering poorly or barely answering, they may be hiding their low self esteem. If they are talking to you, you can learn about their self esteem just by listening.  

2. Meet their friends: They spend about half their time at school with their friends. Ask them to invite friends over, meet their friends and get to know them. Learn what their hobbies and interests are. Are your teens friends involve din drug use or sexual activity? If yes, this can be a sign of low self esteem. Judge as a parent how your teen is choosing friends and if they are genuine. 

3. Be observant: Look for signs of unhappiness, worry, sadness or anger. Mood swings to a certain extent are common in teens but if it is prolonged or excessive this can be a sign of anxiety or depression. 

Use the above steps to recognize your teens self esteem. Repeat the steps until you see that your teen is confident, if you see warning signs that your teen has low self esteem do not feel frustrated. Pick up the phone and do not hesitate to contact a professional!