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Advice and Counselling Service

What is counselling?

Counselling is a confidential space to explore what’s going on for you, with an experienced counsellor, to support you and help you gain clarity, and make connections. Your counsellor won’t give you advice, make judgements, or tell you what to do, but will listen carefully to facilitate a clearer understanding of your difficulties.

Counselling can support with a range of issues, from stress and anxiety, study problems, feeling low or depressed, relationship difficulties, self-harming or suicidal thoughts, worries about sexuality or gender, or perhaps simply not knowing what’s wrong.

The opportunity to think and talk about your difficulties in a reflective way can bring a huge sense of relief, and may also help you to make connections, identify ways of thinking or behaving, and perhaps meaningful changes to your life and relationships.


Counselling FAQs

What can a counsellor help me with?

Counselling can be helpful for many 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 difficult that you’ve struggled with for many years, or something that’s happened recently, counselling is a good place to start. Common reasons why students come to counselling might include:

  • relationships
  • feeling anxious or suffering with panic
  • feeling low or depressed
  • dilemmas and difficult decisions
  • feeling homesick
  • feeling empty, numb, or not knowing what’s wrong
  • sexuality and identity issues
  • issues around gender identity
  • cultural issues
  • exam stress
  • procrastinating or feeling blocked in your work
  • self-harm or suicidal thoughts
  • bereavement
  • family problems
  • eating issues
  • experience of trauma or assault
  • abuse

Is counselling confidential?

The Advice and Counselling Service works within a strict code of confidentiality so that any information about you, your attendance at the service, and anything discussed in appointments is kept confidential to the service. Confidentiality means we do not disclose any information to friends, family, academic staff or other Queen Mary staff outside our service.

In some rare situations we may need to break confidentiality. We will always discuss or attempt to contact you first to get your permission to pass on the information, or support you to pass on the information yourself. Where this is not possible, we might pass on the information, but only in these exceptional circumstances:

  • Where we believe that you or someone else is in, or may imminently be, at serious risk of harm. For students outside the UK, that we are supporting remotely during Coronavirus, we require you to provide an emergency contact in the same country for this limited purpose.
  • Where we would be liable to civil or criminal court proceedings if the information was not disclosed.

Confidentiality includes any information about your immigration status in the UK. The Advice and Counselling Service is separate from all other departments at Queen Mary that have a duty to report on students’ attendance and compliance with the immigration rules to the UK Home Office.

For more detailed information see our Confidentiality policy.

How quickly can I get an appointment?

Waiting times for an initial consultation and for ongoing appointments depend on the time of year. During quieter times (start of term and during vacations) you may be offered an initial consultation quickly, with appointments following soon after. At busier times, the wait time for an initial consultation may be 2–3 weeks or longer. The more availability you can give us, the sooner we will be able to offer you an appointment.

If you are finding things difficult while you are waiting, you can speak with your GP who can provide more support. You can also contact your school for support with Extenuating Circumstances.

What will happen at the initial consultation?

At the initial consultation, you will be invited to talk more about what is troubling you, and the counsellor may ask questions to help build a picture about your life, your experiences and how your difficulties are affecting you.

The initial consultation is a chance to think together about what will be most useful for you. That might be individual counselling, group therapy, cognitive behavioural informed therapy or something else. Sometimes we might help you to access a specialist service in the NHS or elsewhere, or support you with finding longer term therapy.

If you decide with your counsellor that short-term counselling would be the best route, we will agree a contract - the number of sessions and dates. There may be a wait for further sessions, and the counsellor will contact you when a vacancy becomes available.

Is the appointment Covid-safe?

Due to Covid, we are offering a mix of online appointments (MS Teams), phone support and face-to-face sessions. 

There are more online appointments available than face-to-face (due to requirements for cleaning and ventilating rooms between sessions) so an online appointment is often the quickest way to be seen. If you don't have access to a quiet, private space for an online appointment, you can use one of our ‘zoom rooms’ on site, a room for you to attend an online appointment. Please request this when you contact us.

If you are unable to attend an online appointment and would prefer a face-to-face appointment please let us know. Please be advised that there are fewer in-person appointments available, and that due to room size and being in a closed space you will need to wear a face covering from the time you enter the reception area until you leave our offices. Your counsellor will also wear a face covering. All rooms have been risk-assessed by Health & Safety experts as safe for two people to meet in.  

If you have any Covid-19 related symptoms, or have been advised to self-isolate, you are required to notify us and we will either postpone, or switch your appointment to an online one.

If you have a condition which makes wearing a face covering impossible but you would like an appointment on campus, we can arrange for you to use a private room in our building to have an online appointment – please request this when you book your appointment.

What if I'm not sure I need counselling?

If you are not sure whether you would benefit from meeting with a counsellor, taking an online test could help you decide. You could try this NHS option: Mood Self-Assessment.

If you are still unsure whether you need counselling, having an initial appointment with a counsellor can help you decide what would be most helpful. You are welcome to come along for just one appointment, without making a commitment to further counselling. At least a third of all students feel that just one appointment really helps.

You might also want to try self-help. 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.

Do I need counselling or welfare advice?

Because we are a joint service, it’s important to distinguish Counselling from our Welfare Advice service. Welfare Advisers provide advice and guidance on practical issues such as finance and debt, immigration, welfare rights, international issues, estrangement and leaving care. Find out more about Welfare Advice.

Aren’t sure which you need? Please contact our Frontline Team where you can discuss the right help for you.  We can also direct you to other support at Queen Mary and beyond.

What types of counselling do you offer?

At your initial consultation we will agree together what might be the right approach for you. We offer individual counselling, cognitive behavioural informed therapy, group therapy, workshops and support groups, a psychiatry clinic, and a drug and alcohol clinic. We also signpost to self-help, and online programmes.

Because the counselling we offer is short-term, we might agree together that you would be best supported by accessing a specialist service in the NHS or elsewhere, or perhaps longer-term therapy, and we can help you to do this.

We do not offer long-term therapy.

Will I see the same counsellor?

Where possible we will try to offer you an ongoing vacancy with the counsellor you first meet.  However, at busy times of the year, you may prefer to be referred to a colleague so you can access support more quickly. 

If you require a different kind of approach, you may be referred to a colleague trained in that modality.

Can I bring someone with me?

Counselling is usually offered one-to-one 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 prior to your session.

What happens if I'm late or miss an appointment?

If you’re running late, please contact us in advance to let us know if you can. If you are more than 20 minutes late, your session may need to be rescheduled.

If you need to cancel a session for any reason, please try to notify us more than 24 hours in advance. Late cancellations will normally be counted as part of your allocated sessions. If you miss two appointments in a row and we don’t hear from you, we’ll assume you don’t wish to continue with counselling for the time being. You are always welcome to get back in touch at a later date during your studies, if you would like to see a counsellor again.

If you miss a session due to illness or extenuating circumstances, we will normally try to reschedule.

If you appear to be under the influence of drugs/alcohol at an appointment, we will need to reschedule your appointment.

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