International Students Seeking Help from CAPS


Submitted by Monika Jingchen Hu

Back in my home country China, seeking help from a professional counselor seems to admit that you are sick and/or mad. The standard way of coping with it is that if you have problems (usually they are considered as things having a short term effect; i.e. they are not supposed to be illness), you should go talk to your family or friends, and naturally as time goes by you will be fine. Hence professional counseling in China is such an undeveloped industry – little supply, and therefore little demand, and the circle goes on.

If it is not that got to know about counseling services back in university in Hong Kong, I guess I would have sought the “normal” solution as described before, when I was too stressed out with study and work in my first year in graduate school. It was almost a year ago, when I was very much behind in school work and started to question my abilities and choice of pursuing a PhD. At first I was having physical symptoms of feeling tired and having “heart attack” – a feeling that the heart aches constantly. I visited the Student Health Center, the doctor calmed me down and results showed nothing wrong physically. My doctor recommended me taking enough rest and if I would like, I should visit the CAPS on campus. CAPS stands for Counseling and Psychological Services, which is available to all students.  I got to know counseling services back in my university in Hong Kong, and I participated in a peer counselor training program. Maybe I was just so stressed out and focused on school work that I almost forgot about seeking help from counselors, I scheduled an appointment with a counselor at CAPS who has a Chinese name. I was hoping to meet a mother-like figure and my expectation was fully fulfilled. We talked in Chinese and having someone outside the department tentatively listening to me was quite helpful. In the end I felt much better and I did not go back for more times though I very much want to catch up with her some time. I was very glad that I stay open to professional counseling which aided me overcoming one of the hardest times in my life.

I know that in many Asian countries like China, it is still not a good thing to seek counseling and psychological services. But we are here in the United States, at Duke, where we have a much freer atmosphere about these things and very high quality services available. Sometimes you really just need a person not close to your life to be your companion for an hour. The conversation could almost always keep your mind off the bad things happening and you get refreshed to move on.