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The Sibling Connection
Experiencing the Death of a Sibling as a College Student
Getting Professional Help

        When you lose a sibling, you need to talk. But it isn't always possible to talk with your fellow students. If they have not experienced the death of a close family member, they may not understand why you still feel sad two months after the death. If you decide that you need to seek help from a professional, what should you do?

  • Call your campus counseling center and make an appointment. This is the most practical course of action. If they can help you, good -- if not, then...

  • Get out your medical insurance card and call the number on the back to find out if you have coverage, and what type of counselor you have to see. They may tell you that you have to see one of their "preferred providers", and that is fine -- if not, then...


  • Call your campus counseling center again and ask them to refer you to a counselor off campus. If this is not possible, then...


  • Call your medical doctor, your pastor, or someone you trust who you know has been in counseling. One of them may be able to give you a referral. If not, then...


  • Go online to Counselor Find, the National Board for Certified Counselors' referral service. In England, go to Find A Counselor, the British Association for Counselling's referral service. In Canada, go to Locate a certified counsellor, on the Canadian Counselling Association's site.

  • If that doesn't work, then look in the yellow pages.

         The "fit" between client and counselor is important. If you don't like the first person you see, try someone else. Ask them to describe how they work and how they were trained. Find out exactly how much it will cost.

         It is equally important to find out how they work and their theoretical background. Supportive therapy or counseling means the counselor is listening and validating what you say, possibly giving advice and helping you feel better. Analytic or psychodynamic therapies rely on the counselor remaining anonymous, not talking much, and taking away your defenses. Many bereaved siblings experience this as a form of abandonment. Don't be afraid to tell the counselor exactly what you need.

         Mental health professionals are:

  • Licensed Professional Counselors
  • Pastoral Counselors
  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers
  • Licensed Clinical Psychologists
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