His lucky charm
Diary of a student psychological counsellor – the treatment of student M.M.
For the intake we talk online, he is sitting behind his laptop in a dark room and it is hard to see his face. With some difficulty he tells me that he is becoming increasingly anxious to speak, stressed and depressed. These complaints are getting in his way when studying and his grades are suffering as a consequence. Together with his family he fled a warzone and he is eager to continue studying here in the Netherlands. Dutch is a big problem for him. Imagine how hard it is to express yourself well and academically correct in a language that you have only learnt 3 years ago…
We explore the problems together and in the next session I explain to him that we could try to change some of the thought- and behavioral patterns that are hindering him. He becomes very quiet and has a concerned look on his face. I can see the emotional tension building up and I ask him what bothers him. Tears flow and he admits that he is not confident that this approach will help. He is desperate and feels very alone.
‘I no longer need luck, I can trust in myself again’
During the sessions that follow we discuss which steps he can take, why and how. He asks a lot of questions to understand well and is, regardless of his doubts, motivated to go the extra mile. When I see him a few weeks later he seems to stand taller and more proudly. He tried all the experiments that we came up with, with success. He was able to ask questions to the professor, tell his fellow students to be quiet during a lecture and to stand up for his opinion during a class. Bit by bit he is starting to behave differently, not avoiding his fears anymore. It was difficult and took hard work but he was able to break patterns that kept him lonely and insecure for a long period. Together we are happily surprised by his success. We are both excited to see what comes next.
In our fifth and final session he brings me a small gift. He hands me an object that he used to take to exams for good luck, his ‘lucky charm’. “I don’t need this anymore, I want to give it to you as a souvenir and a token of my gratitude. I no longer need luck, I can trust in myself again.” I am incredibly proud of him and I hope that he has felt that.
Publicated with the approval of student M.M.
Psychologist and student psychological counsellor