College students have to balance academics with high expectations and with young adult identity challenges. What is often overlooked is the fact that it is around the college age when many mental health issues arise.

Allison Lockard

There is no question, says Professor Allison Lockard, education, that it is a good thing more college students are seeking mental health counseling. Now it is time to start understanding how counseling impacts students and how to improve it.

"It is more in demand than ever before. The stigma around counseling has decreased among college students," says Lockard. "I just think there are a lot of stressors for college students. They have to balance academics with high expectations and with the young adult identity challenges that happen around that age. What is often overlooked is the fact that it is around the college age when many mental health issues arise."

Lockard believes that colleges, especially smaller, competitive ones like Bucknell, are conscious that they have to not only educate in an academic way, but also attend to students' emotional lives. Prior to her doing her doctoral research at Penn State, she worked for several years at the counseling center at Florida A&M University as a clinician and later as an assistant director.

"That was where I developed an interest in the connection between academic performance and mental health counseling," she says. "There can be high levels of academic distress at any college or university. I would like to get more data to see where we are going. The purpose is to find ways to retain students, to keep them in school."

Eventually, Lockard says, she would like the goal of her research to be getting counseling centers to have a greater voice and be better advocates for themselves.

"The mission of universities has to be academic, it is true, but how can college mental health counseling enhance that mission?" she asks. "I have loved working with college students — the age is a wonderful one — so I would like to see how we can help more of them succeed, even if they have stressful mental health issues."

Posted Oct. 7, 2016

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