What is Counselling?
Counselling is a kind of ‘talking therapy’ which involves having a face to face conversation with a trained and experienced practitioner in a confidential, non-judgemental setting. A counsellor will use their skills to help you to explore the difficulties you are experiencing at present and to make sense of the reasons why you are struggling. They will help you put your feelings into words and make connections between different aspects of your life. The opportunity to think and talk about your difficulties in a reflective way can not only bring a sense of relief but also help you to make meaningful changes to your life and relationships.
Some people think they have to experience a major traumatic event in their life before seeing a counsellor. In fact there are so many reasons why someone might decide to come to counselling. You may not even know what the matter is, but just feel unhappy or stressed. A counsellor can help you work out what might be troubling you even if you are not sure yourself, and then they can help you to think about ways forward.
What can a counsellor help me with?
Counselling can be helpful for all kinds of difficulties and we are here to help with any personal issues which are having an impact on your ability to study or to make the most of student life. Whether you are dealing with something quite serious that you’ve struggled with for many years, or something small which has happened recently, counselling is a good place to start. Common reasons why students come to counselling include:
- anxiety and panic
- dilemmas and difficult decisions
- sexuality and identity issues
- exam stress
- cultural issues
- family problems
- eating disorders
- trauma or assault
- domestic violence
Do I need an appointment?
Many students find it very helpful to learn more about their current difficulties by reading about them in books (Bibliotherapy), leaflets or on the internet. Making sense of why we feel the way we do, can often bring relief and be enough to help us to get back on track.
The Common problems section of our website provides information on some typical problems faced by students. This section of the website also holds lots of information about alternative sources of support, confidential helplines and web based resources as well as community based counselling services and support groups for people dealing with specific issues. Also the Computerised self-help programmes section offers free online tools for those who feel uncomfortable talking face to face.
However, if you would like to discuss your issues in person, there are two ways to do this, either by coming along to a drop-in session or booking an appointment with a counsellor (see below).
If you are unsure whether you want counselling, having an initial appointment with a counsellor can help you to decide what will be most helpful. You can come along for just one appointment if you wish, without making a commitment to further counselling.
How soon can I get an appointment?
During the main College term-time (apart from College closure days), we offer drop-in sessions every weekday (Monday to Friday) afternoon. This means that you should be able to see a counsellor without booking an appointment.
Drop-in sessions start at 2pm, they last up to 50 minutes per student and take place in a confidential one-to-one setting.
When you arrive please let the receptionist know you would like to see a counsellor. Drop-in sessions operate on a first come, first served basis, you can come to the reception to register for drop in from 1.30pm, and the available slots often fill up very quickly. The latest time you can arrive is 2.00pm, although often you will not be able to be seen if the slots have already been filled by other students who arrived earlier.
If you would prefer to have a guaranteed appointment, and don't mind waiting a few days, you can book an appointment for a specific time. You can book an appointment by visiting our reception in person or by telephone.
Waiting times for further counselling appointments vary depending on the time of year. At quieter times, nearer the start of terms, or during student vacation time, you may be offered another appointment in the week following your initial screening interview. At busier times the waiting time may be 2 weeks of longer. The more flexibility you have to attend appointments the sooner we will be able to offer you something suitable.
What if I’m not sure what help I need?
Our experienced reception staff deal with all types of enquiries from students and can explain how we might be able to help you. We have a lot of information available in our waiting area which our staff can direct you to. We also hold information about other support services, both within the College and outside it. If there is another service that might be more helpful, either a different department in the College, or an organisation outside of College, we can usually direct you towards this. If it is still unclear how best we can help you, then you probably need to see a counsellor to discuss possible options in private.
How do I book an appointment?
If you do not wish to come along to one of our daily drop-in sessions, you can book a specific appointment by visiting our reception in person or contact us by telephone on 020 7882 8717.
When you arrive
Try to arrive 10 minutes before your appointment time. Our reception staff will ask you to fill in a form for our records, and to help us to measure how useful the service is to students. They will also ask you to sign a statement showing that you understand our Code of Practice on confidentiality. You can read our Confidentiality Code of Practice in full here:
If you are late for a specific appointment time, the counsellor may decide that it will be best to reschedule your appointment, or they may decide to meet with you for a short appointment. In our experience, it can be unhelpful to begin an appointment when there isn’t enough time to discuss things fully, and this is why the counsellor might decide it is best for you to book another appointment.
What will happen at my first appointment?
Your appointment will always be in private, in one of our consulting rooms. Your first session is to find out if counselling is what you want and if it is going to be helpful to you. We will listen to what has been troubling you and what made you decide to contact us. We will probably ask you some questions about yourself, your background, and how your difficulties are affecting your studies and general well being.
You and the counsellor will have the opportunity to think together about what will be most useful to you. That might be counselling, group therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy or something else. If it is felt that counselling within our service is not going to be the best form of help, we will try to refer you to something more suitable outside of the College.
For some people, one or two sessions are all they want or need and they feel the difficulties that brought them to counselling are sufficiently resolved in that time. Other people may need more than one session to decide with their counsellor what they might need. If it is decided that further counselling would be helpful, we usually offer a weekly 50 minute appointment. We offer a maximum of 6 appointments per student.
What other kinds of emotional or psychological support might I be offered?
Your first appointment will be an opportunity to discuss whether you want counselling and, if so, what type of counselling might be most helpful in dealing with your current issues. As well as counselling we offer group therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, workshops and a range of self help materials. The following provides brief information on each of these options, with links to access further information.
- Group therapy provides confidential emotional support, discussing issues with other students and the group therapist over a period of time, usually at least a term, sometimes a whole academic year.
- Cognitive behaviour therapy is a practical, problem-solving approach which tends to be more structured and involves setting and working towards specific goals.
- Workshops and psycho-educational groups for specific issues run at different times during the year and will be publicised on our website and by posters around the campus. In the past these have included specific groups for PhD students as well as sessions on assertiveness, procrastination and exam anxiety.
- Bibliotherapy is a scheme run jointly with the Library which helps students make use of recommended self-help books to address psychological and emotional issues.
- Computerised self-help programmes offers online packages for those who may not feel they need counselling, or they may feel uncomfortable talking to someone face to face about their difficulties. In this situation it can sometimes feel easier at first to use computer based ways to work on your difficulties.
At busy times of year, there may be a waiting list for counselling.. After your first appointment, if you would like further appointments we will contact you as soon as a regular appointment becomes available. Your second appointment may not be with the same person as your initial appointment. However, your second appointment will provide an opportunity to discuss your needs in more detail and book further appointments where you will see the same counsellor over a number of weeks.
What happens if I miss an appointment?
Due to the very high demand for counselling any missed appointments will be counted as one of the agreed number ie if you’ve been offered four appointments and miss one, you will only have tree left. The exception is that if you cancel with at least 24 hours notice, your counsellor may be able to discount the appointment ie add another on to the end so you still have the same number as agreed.
Can I bring someone with me?
Counselling is usually offered as a one-to-one therapy in a confidential setting and it is therefore not appropriate for others to attend. You are welcome to bring someone and they can wait in the waiting room. If there is a particular reason why you would want someone to attend one of your sessions, please discuss this with your counsellor.
Is what I say kept confidential?
Anything discussed with a counsellor and even the fact that you have attended an appointment is confidential to the service. Information about your attendance will only be shared with others in very specific circumstances and usually with your explicit consent.
For our detailed policy on Confidentiality and Data Protection see Policies and Procedures.