Therapy can liberate your world

Daily Sundial
May 8 2013

It’s no secret that individualism is a characteristic of American culture. People take pride in achieving goals and handling matters on their own. However, it is because of this mindset there is a negative stigma associated with going to counseling.

Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean you’re damaged, and you don’t need to have a mental illness or disorder to visit one. Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness, nor is it a negative resort to sorting out your problems. After all, people work in groups all the time to figure things out so why should asking for assistance when it comes to personal circumstances be perceived negatively? It is unfortunate that this stigma still remains in society because the benefits of going to a therapist are positively life-changing.

At the same time, it’s imperative that we remember that seeing a counselor is far from easy. The most challenging part is to acknowledge that you might need some help and thus decide to making the initial appointment.

Last fall, I made a call to meet with a therapist at CSUN’s University Counseling Services (UCS) for the first time. I had toyed with the idea for a few semesters because some things were becoming difficult for me to deal with on my own, including anxiety from school. But I frequently found myself “too busy” to call, let alone finding time to pour my soul out to some trained stranger.

Telling the receptionist I wanted to make an appointment for “psychological counseling” was tough in and of itself, but dealing with the feeling of defeat after ending the call was even more mind-boggling. Was I truly unable to solve my own problems?

Throughout the process, what’s interesting is that my therapist never felt that she needed to “solve” my problem. My therapist never imposed her views on me, but rather clarified my sentiments and asked me questions that guided me to answers I had within myself.

In the end, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, there was nothing bad about it. There was nothing bad about gaining a refreshing degree of self-understanding that helped me grasp my personality and realize why I act the way I do in certain situations. And there was nothing bad about figuring out how to take steps toward improving myself in areas I wanted to develop.

UCS offers eight free one-on-one counseling sessions to current students per academic year. That’s quite a deal, considering that sessions at private practices cost from anywhere between $150 to $200.

Once my individual sessions expired in December, I signed up for a group – with some reluctance – at the beginning of this semester. I had learned to trust one therapist, but now I was moving on to open myself to a new one and five to eight other CSUN students.

My biggest fear was that they would judge me and tell my stories to others.

But neither of those things happened.

Each member came into the sessions with an open mind and suspended judgment because we all had identical reasons for attending group therapy: to further nourish a better understanding of ourselves and to grow as human beings. Of course there was an initial discomfort in opening up to an entire group, but as the weeks progressed, the inevitable rapport that develops when spending a lot of time with the same individuals surfaced.

The dynamic in group therapy is unique. It becomes a safe place to become vulnerable among peers who aren’t necessarily friends.

The beginning of each one and half hour session in my group consists of asking how our week has been. If we have specific issues we want to share with the group, we request for time to discuss it. Members then listen, ask questions, and share if anything said resonates with us. Not long after the group began, meeting with my group members became one of the highlights of my week.

As far as privacy goes, I have no doubt that everything I’ve shared with the group has stayed within the walls of our meeting room in Bayramian Hall. As it is with one-on-one counseling, therapists and group members are required to maintain confidentiality of all clients, except in certain cases, such as if a person is believed to be a threat to themselves or others.

The beauty of this type of therapy is that it becomes a support group where all members are generally able to provide input that is more objective and constructive than if we spoke to our friends. This is because none of us are involved in any of each other’s lives to such an extent that would bias our responses in discussions.

Some people defend not going to therapy because friends and family are there to listen. And at times, that’s really all that is needed.

However, psychologists are trained to do more than just lend an ear. They are trained to understand the roots of the discomforting symptoms people may be experiencing, as well as ways to help students get “unstuck,” according to Mark Stevens, director of UCS.

Sometimes it’s not enough to hear that friends “understand exactly” what you’re going through, and close involvement in someone’s life can result in subjective suggestions in how to handle difficult situations.

Going to a counselor for help is tough for more reasons than just the stigma. In some cultures, talking negatively about family to a stranger may result in a feeling of embarrassment or the feeling that one has dishonored their parents, Stevens said.

Others simply don’t trust the confidentiality by which licensed psychologists are bound.

However, what is important is that people are able to share how they feel while knowing that they are truly heard and listened to. In some cultures, people may find it effective to simply speak with a minister or priest, or aunt or uncle, Stevens said. For those who do this and find they need more, he suggests considering professional help.

Going to therapy may still be ridiculed, but the journey in examining old wounds and exploring feelings is enlightening and empowering. UCS offers incredible resources for students that those who have yet to use may want to consider.

Opening up and exposing uncharted emotional territory may be an uncomfortable hurdle, but doing so is a sign of strength, not weakness, and is a step toward a fulfilling state of self-awareness.

—Agnes is a graduating senior who wishes she had gone to therapy much earlier. It is for this reason she wrote this piece and hopes others consider therapy, including the services offered at UCS.


Big Brother or Facebook? It’s Hard to Differentiate

March 30, 2011

In his 1949 novel “1984,” George Orwell coined the popular slogan, “Big Brother is watching you.” In the fictional world he created, everyone was put under surveillance and heavily scrutinized. Although this dystopia was meant to exist 27 years ago, technology has made Orwell’s 1984 world a reality of 2011. “Big Brother” keeps his eye over the world today, and we’re all being watched.
With the advent of Facebook in 2004, it has become hundreds of times easier to keep track of virtually everyone’s activities and whereabouts.Because every move made in cyberspace is tracked, and since that’s where many spend a considerable amount of time, Big Brother knows more about who we are than we probably realize.It’s not just that all of your friends, and maybe even people who aren’t your friends, have access to every wall post you share, status update you post, photo you upload, message you send, and even instant message you fire away: it’s that Mark Zuckerberg owns EVERYTHING you do via Facebook.
Yep, all that stuff posted does NOT belong to the individual who transmits the content online.When a user signs up for Facebook there’s a point in the process where the person has to get past a CAPTCHA. (This is a security measure that involves typing a display of distorted letters into a field to confirm that a person is creating an account. It is implemented to prevent the automated creation of multiple accounts.)

Immediately underneath the CAPTCHA is the sign up button, and underneath that is a teeny little sentence that reads, “By clicking Sign Up, you are indicating that you have read and agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.”

Although there are surely people who have taken the time to read Facebook’s terms and privacy policy, the lengthy jargon probably deters a greater number from understanding exactly what it is they’ve signed up for.

Well, of the seemingly countless lines of terms and conditions, there are two sections that state Facebook essentially owns whatever you do on Facebook, both of which come from its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (which was previously called “Terms and Conditions”):

“For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

What this verbose chunk of text means is that Facebook can do essentially anything it wishes with your intellectual property – your expression of thoughts and ideas through writing, photos, and videos – posted on the social networking site. And if the company makes money off of your writing, photos, or videos, you don’t get compensated for it.

In the FAQ section of this social networking utility, it is stated that users retain copyright to their content. But what does that really matter when Facebook is allowed to make money off of your intellectual property without giving you part of the profit? Basically, Facebook holds just as much copyright to your content as you do.

Fortunately, there’s a way to terminate Facebook’s license to your content.

Well, sort of.

The previously cited text states that Facebook’s license to your intellectual property “ends when you delete your IP content or your account.”

Unfortunately, if your content somehow remains on the account of another user, whether that user was tagged in a photo or if the user saved your content and uploaded it into his or her account, Facebook still has the right to use the content the same way as if it were still on your account.

Another way that Facebook may circumvent users’ absolute right to control over their content is stated in another wordy section in its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities:

“When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).”

When a recycle bin on a computer is emptied, files aren’t completely erased in that instant. In fact, they can actually be recovered, depending on how long ago the files have been deleted. (Files can be retrieved if attempted in a timely manner, before the computer saves something new to the partition of the hard drive that has been cleared.)

What does the company mean by “a reasonable period of time?” Does that mean that everything put on Facebook remains floating around in cyberspace indefinitely? Who exactly are the “others” that deleted content won’t be available to? Other users? What does the company get to do with the “backup copies” of content?

There doesn’t appear to be any clear definition of these references in Facebook’s terms.

If that’s not enough to worry about, there’s also the fact that the social networking utility tracks down the browser you use, the pages you visit, your location, and your IP address. Since IP addresses are unique to specific locations, it’s easy to figure out where a person lives, works or goes to school.

There’s also Places, a feature Facebook launched in August 2010 that allows users to announce their exact location, who they’re with, and what they’re doing on their walls.

It’s probably a fun thing to do since many people publicize their whereabouts and activities. But for those who use this feature, it’s important to keep in mind that by doing so, a multibillion-dollar company has recorded your location, and potentially your activity and companions with you at that time.

At the moment, the information you put up is used in a couple of ways.

Your “likes” on Facebook are used so companies can more specifically target their advertisements.

By default, your Facebook profile is made available to public search engines so that anyone who types your name into Google or Bing may stumble across your page.

Also, before using an app or playing a game, it is necessary to grant the third party hosting the app or game to access your basic information, including your “name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information I’ve shared with everyone.” In January, Facebook extended the scope of information to which these third parties can request access, including your address and phone number.

Anything put up online is subject to scrutiny.

When the Patriot Act passed in 2001, the government gained the legal authority to increase surveillance measures for national security reasons. Among a number of things, it allows authorities to wiretap phone calls and electronic communications.

Guess what kind of communication Facebook is.

Big Brother knows so much about us, and it’s really unnerving. Credit card transactions can reveal where you prefer to shop, phone bills show the people you text and call most frequently, and customer service hotlines sometimes monitor phone calls for ‘quality assurance purposes.’

If you have a Facebook profile, what does it reveal about you? In addition to the fact that whatever is on there doesn’t belong to you, Big Brother can see everything because he’s still watching.