What is counselling?
Counselling offers an opportunity to talk through your concerns in order to make changes and move forward in your life. It involves you 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, to make sense of the reasons why you are struggling and to think about what might help.
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.
Do I need to see a counsellor?
If you are not sure whether you would benefit from meeting with a counsellor, taking an online test might help you to decide:
If you are still unsure whether you need 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. At least a third of all students feel that just one appointment really helps.
Many students also find it helpful to find out more about their current difficulties by reading about them in books (Bibliotherapy) 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 and about local sources of support, confidential helplines and online resources.The Online self-help programmes section offers free online tools.You might want to try some of these self-help approaches, and if things don't improve, contact our frontline team and ask about making an appointment with a counsellor (see below).
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 smaller which has happened recently, counselling is a good place to start. Common reasons why students come to counselling might include:
- feeling anxious or suffering with panic
- feeling low or depressed
- dilemmas and difficult decisions
- feeling homesick
- sexuality and identity issues
- issues around gender identity
- exam stress
- cultural issues
- procrastinatng or feeling blocked in your work
- family problems
- eating issues
- experience of trauma or assault
Counsellors are here to listen and talk with you about anything that is on your mind and might be troubling you.
How soon can I get an appointment and how do I book an appointment?
During the main university term-time we offer same-day appointments every weekday (Monday to Friday) afternoon (apart from university closure days). This means that you may be able to see a Counsellor without booking an appointment in advance.
Registration for same-day appointments starts at 1:30pm that day and slots are offered on a first come, first served basis with the appointments taking place at 2pm. There are a limited number of available same-day appointments and they often fill up quickly so we recommend you arrive well in advance of 1:30pm.
If you arrive earlier than 1:30pm, please take a seat in our waiting area. Staff in our frontline team will ask students to come forward when bookings for same-day appointments open at 1:30pm and you can then let staff know you would like to see a counsellor.
If you obtain a same-day appointment, staff in the frontline team will collect a few contact details from you and book you in to see a Counsellor. You can either wait in our waiting area until it is your turn to be seen, or leave and come back at the time you have been allocated.
If after waiting you do not obtain a same-day appointment, staff in the frontline team will let you know when the earliest pre-booked appointment is, or talk to you about trying to obtain a same-day appointment on another afternoon; during busy periods it is possible it may take a couple of attempts, yet this could still mean that you will be seen sooner than waiting for a pre-booked appointment.
If you would prefer to have a guaranteed appointment, you can book an appointment for a specific time. You can book an appointment by visiting our reception in person or by telephone on 020 7882 8717.
Appointments last up to 50 minutes and take place in a confidential one-to-one setting.
Some people find that a single appointment with a counsellor is all they need; for other people further appointments will be helpful. 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 meeting. At busier times, the waiting time may be 2 weeks or longer. The more flexibility you have to attend appointments the sooner we will be able to offer you something suitable. Any further appointmnets will usually be with the counsellor you met with initially. Occasionally, however, people may be referred to a different counsellor for further counselling sessions.
What if I'm not sure if I need counselling or some other kind of help?
Our experienced frontline team deal with all types of enquiries 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 QMUL and outside. If there is another service that might be more helpful, either a different department at QMUL, or an organisation outside, we can usually direct you towards this. If it is still unclear how best we can help you, then you are welcome to see a counsellor to discuss possible options with them in private.
What will happen when I arrive for my first appointment?
Please arrive 10 minutes before your appointment time. Our frontline staff will ask you to fill in a form for our records. 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:Confidentiality and Data Protection [DOC 48KB] UPDATED 30/04/15 If you are late for your appointment, your 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 my first appointment be like?
Your appointment will always be in private, in one of our consulting rooms. Your first session will involve finding out if counselling is what you want and if it is going to be helpful for you. The counsellor 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 individual counselling, group therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy or something else. If it is felt that the short term counselling offered within our service is not going to be the best form of help, we will try to refer you to a more suitable service. If you decide with your counsellor that counselling with us would be helpful, together you will decide when would be best to meet again and the likely number of sessions you might need, bearing in mind the fact that we are a short term service.
What other kinds of emotional or psychological support might I be offered?
Your first appointment will be an opportunity to speak about what is on your mind and then discuss whether counselling within this service is the best option for you and, if it is, what type of counselling might be most helpful. As well as 1:1 counselling we offer group therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, workshops and a range of self help materials:
- 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 or longer.
- Cognitive Behaviour Based-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. These normally cover topics such as managing stress, assertiveness, procrastination and exam anxiety.
- Bibliotherapy is a scheme run jointly with the Library which provides recommended self-help books to address psychological and emotional issues.
- Online 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.
If it becomes apparent during your first appointment or subesequently, that you need more a specialised service or longer term therapy than we offer, your counsellor will help you to access this support outside of our service.
What happens if I miss an appointment?
Due to the very high demand for counselling, any missed appointments will be counted as one of your agreed number of sessions. If you cancel with at least 24 hours notice, that session will not be counted.
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, except under very exceptional circumstances, with your explicit consent.
For our detailed policy on Confidentiality and Data Protection see Policies and Procedures.
Still not sure if counselling is for you?
Here are some responses to questions and concerns that are sometimes raised:
What if I think my problems are too long-standing or too complex for the short term counselling your service offers?
During your initial Intake or Same Day appointment we will help you consider the best way forward. Often we are able to work by focusing on a present problem and this might be sufficiently helpful for you. Sometimes working on one area of your life can also have a positive impact more widely. However, alongside our work together, we might also help you to think about how you can get further support for broader issues both inside and outside the university. Even if we feel we are unable to help you with counselling here we can signpost useful internal and external services. For example we may refer you to QMUL's Mental Health Advisory Service or we may offer a consultation with a psychiatrist within the university. Alternatively we may signpost NHS therapeutic services or suggest external counselling agencies which may offer longer term work.
Must counselling always explore problems in depth and will I be asked to talk about my family and childhood?
Short-term counselling, such as we offer at QMUL ACS, aims to focus on the present-day problem which has brought you to our service. Every person, and every problem, has a history so we do ask questions about your background, including family life, during the initial appointment. However we only focus on family and/or childhood if this feels relevant to the problem. If you have any concerns about the depth of counselling work, or any other aspect of the process, you can raise these during your initial appointment or at any time during the work. If we offer counselling we always aim to agree goals with the student seeking help. If we feel counselling is not the best option we may signpost self-help materials and resources.
Does your service offer one or two appointments to discuss decisions relating to my course or other academic dilemmas?
We are here to help with any personal issues which are affecting your ability to study or to make the most of your time here at university. These might include: difficult dilemmas or decisions related to your studies; procrastination or difficulty handing in work; exam anxiety; issues affecting attendance. However we would also suggest you approach your Student Support Officer as they will be able to offer advice, within your academic school, on matters which may impede your ability to study. If you are seeking academic advice or Extenuating Circumstances you need to contact QMSU's Academic Advice Services. For general information on Extenuating Circumstances see here.
I know that your service is sometimes very busy. What if I think that my problems are not that serious or I think I might be wasting your time?
If you are not sure whether you would benefit from meeting with a counsellor, taking an online test might help you to decide:
If you are still unsure whether you need 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. At least a third of all students feel that just one appointment really helps. Others decide to use our self-help resources or attend a workshop. If you have explored other options but you are still in any doubt as to whether or not you need counselling please do make an appointment, we will be happy to see you and you won’t be wasting our time.
I have tried counselling before and it hasn’t worked. How can I know for sure that it will work this time?
Many students find counselling useful but successful outcomes require suitable counselling of adequate duration to address the problem(s). It may be that previous counselling did not feel suitable or adequate. Or it may be that for some reason you didn’t ‘click’ with the counsellor, and the way that the counsellor worked, and didn’t have the opportunity to discuss or work through this in the sessions. During your initial appointment we will ask you about any previous experience of counselling, we will listen to your concerns and take these into consideration when thinking about next steps. If we feel we can offer counselling which is suitable and adequate we will offer you further counselling appointments here or else we will signpost other, more suitable, services. We offer short-term counselling so it is important to agree a focus and goals for the work. This usually means focusing on the most pressing aspect of the problem. Successful outcomes are not guaranteed but mutually agreed goals help us to work together, assess progress and address problems or setbacks so that we can have a good chance of achieving your therapeutic goals. It is always useful, if you have concerns about the way the counselling is going, to raise this if you can during the sessions. This provides an opportunity to address the concerns with the counsellor and work through them together to move forward. Once the work is over students sometimes feel they would like to have further counselling elsewhere to address other aspects of the problem and we can discuss this with you as part of our work together too. However we will only offer short-term counselling here if we feel reasonably confident this will be of benefit to you.
What if I am not sure why I am struggling and I don’t know if I can put my problems into words if I meet with a counsellor?
It is not unusual to feel confused by our problems and to have difficulty in discovering or expressing exactly what feels wrong. Consultation with a counsellor can often help to clarify the problem and give us new understanding of ourselves. We recognise that you may feel baffled by your problems but we are here to listen, understand and give you some space to think. If you feel uncertain, we hope you will make an appointment with a counsellor so that we can help you to articulate the problem and consider the most helpful way forward.