Mar 31st, 2021, 09:58 AM

Health Office De-stigmatizes Talk Therapy

By Yasmine Moriel
Senior Student Gigi Moriel overwhelmed with amount of schoolwork. Image Credit: Yasmine Moriel.
Seeing a therapist has been a great help to many students during the Pandemic

According to a recent Statista report, anxiety and depression rates are the most prevalent forms of mental disorders reported among people aged 18 to 25 in the U.S. and within past year, rates of those reporting to have experienced a major depressive episode has increased of 15.2 % year over year. Without a doubt, many students have experienced depression and anxiety throughout their lives. But as this report shows, the problem has become more pronounced during the pandemic.

While no such report on AUP’s student body has been published, with so much uncertainty in the air, a third lockdown, and for many living abroad for the first time, many AUP students may be feeling and react with anxiety and depression. Sarah Ketchen Lipson, a Boston University mental health researcher found that, “Half of students in Fall 2020 screened positive for depression and/or anxiety.” Thankfully, AUP’s Health Office has consistently provided support throughout this difficult time.

Meanwhile, seeing a therapist can definitely be a delicate subject for many students. There is a stigma that therapy is strictly for people with severe mental health problems. Although that is partially true, therapy is also beneficial to those who have everyday problems. According to clinical psychologist Dana Gionta, “Most people who initiate counseling do not have a serious mental illness.” AUP student Vanessa said about this stigma, “The big positive for me was that I never felt ashamed for needing help, the student life team were (and continue to be) so supportive.”

To be sure, the AUP Health Office assures students that all the information consulted with a therapist will stay confidential. For them, therapy is a place to create healthy new habits, break old ones, explore and overcome traumas, or simply a safe place to vent. AUP students have appreciated this safe space to talk. As AUP student Jake said, “I think the psychology services are wonderful. The interview with Pamela was very helpful and overall the support from uni was great.” 

My personal journey to seek a psychologist here at AUP began on January 2021 when I experienced a big unexpected turning point in my life. Feeling lost and alone, I was unsure of how to cope with my emotions - especially being miles away from my family. I emailed the AUP Health Office, who directed me to one of the counselors, Pam. We scheduled a Microsoft Teams call and she helped me find a therapist she felt best fit to help me with my situation.

For many students like me, the first therapist you visit is not always the perfect fit, and that is completely fine. Think of it like finding an apartment, usually you will tour several until you find the perfect fit for you. As another AUP student, Jane, shared with me, she had a similar experience to me and said: “I felt really comfortable talking to Anne-Marie. She recommended me to another woman… Unfortunately, I wasn’t gaining anything. Anne-Marie was really helpful in letting me know that it’s okay if you don’t get along with your therapist and that it really is a process, because it’s so true that there might be some trial and error.”

When reached for comment on this article, the AUP Health Office offered that they would like students to know that there is help available and that they are not alone. Anne-Laure, Director of the Health Office team said: “When an AUP student needs to find a therapist, we usually direct the student to one of our counselors, Pamela Montfort, or Charlotte Vernier. They have a list of therapists that are directly paid by MSH (15 sessions per semester), and can direct the student to the right fit for them. We can also direct the students to the therapists, but it's better to talk with Pam or Charlotte first. The student is given the contact of the therapist, who can usually be easily reached by email or Doctolib.”

It is encouraging to see that within the AUP community, due to concerted efforts by faculty, students, and staff, seeking out therapy is becoming seen as an act of bravery rather than a sign of weakness. It is becoming seen as an investments in your emotional, physical and mental well-being.

The AUP students’  interviewed for this article preferred to stay anonymous to protect their privacy and their names have been changed. 

Pamela Montfort and Charlotte Vernier’s calendars are available here: Guidance Counseling | The American University of Paris (