On Student Counselling

Photography Credit: Paul Gabrinetti

Daniela Georgieva and Oli Rushby explain the process and the benefits of student counselling, and how it helped them.

A recent YouGov survey of Britain’s students shows that one in four students suffer from mental health problems. Anxiety, stress, and depression are a few of the issues causing a growing number of students to drop out of university. Research finds that the student suicide numbers nearly doubled in the past decade. As troubling as those numbers may be, according to Help Me Investigate, the demand for student counselling services on campuses has risen by 33%. 

The decision to seek help can be a difficult one to begin with and something most students struggle with.

Daniela: Approaching student counselling definitely made me nervous, fortunately I had a friend who was willing to come with me to make the appointment. Having someone there made me feel more comfortable, afterwards I realised this is nothing to be ashamed of, as most people feel just as uncertain in the beginning.

Oli: I was ‘diagnosed’ with depression in 2016, but had struggled with the ‘classic’ symptoms for years before. It was one of my housemates that eventually persuaded me to go to counselling. I initially saw going into counselling as a negative thing because I thought it showed I was not strong enough to look after myself at uni; effectively I saw it as an admission of defeat.

There are many reasons why counselling can help, including giving you the opportunity to share with someone – which can help the counsellor give you specific suggestions on how to help yourself. It’s important to remember that they are professionals, and experienced with talking and listening to students and helping them. Counselling might not be the ultimate solution to your issues, but the counsellor will do their best to help you with coping.

Oli: Just a few counselling sessions helped me to realise that what I’d done was a vital step in getting through one of the most difficult times of my life.

Daniela: Your counsellor could always refer you to other sources of help as well it could either be self-help books, or even going to the Health Centre for a consultation.

A counselling session usually lasts 45-50 minutes. One session could be enough, or you could decide to attend a number of sessions. The session will start with them asking you questions such as why you decided to seek out help, what is troubling you, and if you’ve had any experience with counselling before.

Daniela: At first, I was nervous about what the counsellor expected me to say and the questions that I had to answer. Then I realised that no one expects you to answer every single question and they certainly don’t expect you to know the exact reason behind what is happening to you – their main goal is to work through your issues.

Usually the counsellor will try to focus on your feelings and guide you through the process of talking about them before giving advice. They might give you a few suggestions about what you can do, and they will discuss them with you before creating a plan.

Oli: After one session I began to feel like I could start to tackle the problems I was facing with my mental health because I now had the proper support to do so; a professional, impartial counsellor to voice my concerns to. I developed new, healthier coping mechanisms to help me get through difficult days with the guidance of my counsellor.

It is extremely rare for a counsellor to disclose anything you have shared with your department, or anyone else, unless you want them to. If they think that you are in a danger of causing harm to yourself, then they might feel the need to tell someone, but they would address their concern with you first.

The university has a full team of professionals, who are prepared to talk to you and try their best to assist you in any way they can.

Oli: Going to counselling sessions it not something that people should be embarrassed of doing – all it means is that you are strong enough to admit that you need the extra support for a brief period while you work to resolve the problems you are facing in your life.

Daniela: At first, I didn’t think that counselling would help me, but it made me see the underlying issues that I hadn’t been dealing with. Talking to my counsellor made me think about problems I had been ignoring for a long time and I believe anyone can benefit from this.

No issue is too small or too big when it comes to seeking out help – it’s not a negative thing to use the student support services on campus.