“A mismatch between what is happening on the inside and going on, on the outside”: a qualitative study of therapists’ perspectives on student mental health
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionInternational Journal of Mental Health Systems. 2021, 15, 87. 10.1186/s13033-021-00508-5
Background Although a growing number of studies indicates a high prevalence of reported mental health problems in students and that the problems are growing in number and severity, less is known about the experiences of students facing mental health problems and personnel who interact with students that seek help for these problems. The aim of this study is to examine the perspectives of therapists working with students seeking therapy for mental health problems. Methods A qualitative study of 15 therapists’ perspectives. Data are collected with in-depth, semistructured and open-ended interviews, and analyzed using a reflexive thematic analysis. Results We developed four themes that summarize how the therapists viewed and understood the students’ experiences of mental health problems: (1) an agonizing mismatch between the inside and the outside, (2) conflicting needs for closeness and distance, (3) no room for pain, and (4) a major potential for ripple effects. Conclusions We relate our findings to the existing theory and research, and we discuss the implications for clinical practice and the limitations of the study. We argue that our findings demonstrate the need to provide students room to explore and make meaning of their difficulties and pain related to mental health problems, in addition to offer some symptom-reducing tools and techniques that can enhance performance and academic achievements. More research is needed to understand what student mental health problems might be related to and what students need.