What is counselling?

Personal counselling involves a counsellor and one or more clients (individual or group) working together to achieve the client’s goals for change or improvement. In counselling, one (or more) persons speak with a trained professional who may provide help in exploring difficult questions/issues or in resolving current dilemmas. People seek resources outside themselves when they find they are no longer able to deal effectively with situations or to make changes in their lives. Counselling can be helpful in improving relationships and in developing skills in various areas of people’s lives.

Advice-giving is not typically a part of the counselling process:  rather, the process is based primarily on exploration of the client’s issues or concerns.

In group counselling participants may benefit from hearing how others have handled situations. Please Note: when counselling is sought in  a crisis situation, the goal is to address any safety issues and to connect the client to resources that will help relieve the current difficulty  that is triggering the crisis.

Who seeks counselling? What issues do students bring to counselling?

Individuals seek resources outside of themselves (like counselling) when they find that they are no longer able to deal effectively with situations or make changes in their lives.   A diverse range of students, both undergraduate and graduate, use our personal counselling services. Students seek counselling for a wide range of issues and concerns and they do not need to be in crisis to benefit from counselling.

Common issues for which students seek counselling are:

  • Depression/depressed mood
  • Interpersonal/relationship difficulties
  • Disordered eating/body image
  • Anxiety
  • Family issues
  • Stress/adjustment issues
  • Issues about sex and sexuality
  • Loneliness and homesickness
  • Past or current abuse or trauma
  • Self-harm/cutting/risky behaviour
  • Identity issues
  • Acute concern on behalf of another student

How can counselling help me?

Most people can handle some level of personal stress. However, there are times when the stress of a situation demands more energy and resources than a person feels they have available. Sometimes, when dealing with sensitive personal problems, talking to an impartial person, versus a friend or relative, helps to gain a better perspective.

Counselling can help people remember the strengths they have, identify the specific problem they are experiencing, and determine the direction they need to take to resolve that problem. Counselling can be both reassuring and supportive as well as challenging, as the client looks at the options available to them and the part they can play in remedying the current difficult circumstances. Depending on the nature of the difficulties addressed, the potential benefits of counselling include:

  • changes in problematic behaviour
  • the removal or reduction of symptoms
  • improvements in self-esteem and overall mood
  • problem resolution
  • improvements in one’s ability to perform academically
  • positive change in personal relationships.
  • While counselling is meant to be a helpful experience, this cannot be guaranteed — either with regard to the process involved or the eventual outcome. It is not uncommon for clients to experience an increase in symptoms or emotional discomfort prior to any potential improvement or to realize there are other issues to be addressed

In group counselling you have the opportunity to meet other students and see how they approach  problems in their own lives. This can give a wider perspective of your own problems. Listening to other students also helps you to understand that you can view and handle problems in more than one way. Other group members can give encouragement and emotional support. In group therapy you can also  directly work on how you relate to other people. The environment of trust and safety created in group can help you build the skills you need to create the same kind of trust and safety in your  life (in classes, at play, at work, with family, friends and colleagues). The group experience can give you the unique chance to see how other students struggle with concerns. It also offers the opportunity to explore a broad range of personal concerns.

How can I make the best of my counselling sessions?

Counselling offers no magical solutions to the problems you bring with you. Clients may find that as they begin to work on their problem, things get worse before they get better. To a great extent, the progress you make in counselling rests on your genuine, honest and active participation in the process. There are several things you can do to help make the counselling process work for you:

  • Attend all of your scheduled sessions or appointments.(if you are unable to attend, please let your group leader or counsellor know ahead of time)
  • Be honest and open about the issues you present in sessions and be willing to explore the role you play in a given problematic situation
  • Since you are responsible for most of the work, be thoughtful between sessions about issues explored, and try out new ideas and strategies
  • Follow through on homework
  • Be willing to consider replacing current, unhelpful ways of doing things with more positive, though new and uncertain ones

The success of your counselling experience also involves your willingness to give feedback to your counsellor and/or group members. This includes letting your counsellor/group members know what you think is working and where you have concerns. Rather than dropping out of counselling, giving this kind of feedback offers  the opportunity to revisit the way you had been working up to this point and allows you to determine what might continue to be helpful.

Will other people know that I am seeing a counsellor?

We recognize that confidentiality is extremely important to students who seek our services and we assure it within applicable legal and ethical guidelines. Your counsellor will take all possible precautions to maintain  your confidentiality and guard against the disclosure of personal information unless informed, written consent has been obtained from you. Moreover, neither information shared in the counselling process nor the fact that you have been seen at Personal Counselling Services(PCS) will be shared with faculty, parents, or any other third party without your  written consent.

Please note:  there are situations (such as the neglect/abuse of a child or when clients are a danger to themselves or others) where counsellors are obligated by law and/or ethical professional standards to report information to relevant authorities/third parties. Your counsellor will review our confidentiality policy with you at the beginning of your first session. Please see our privacy policy for further information.

What is the difference between a counselling session and initial intake session?

An intake is an assessment, an information-gathering session and usually involves more of a question-answer format than a counselling session does. As part of the intake, the student will be asked to complete some forms. The intake appointment will be 60 to 90 minutes in length. . When a student comes in for their  first counselling session, the counsellor may cover some of the information they  gave us during the intake, however, the aim of this session is to allow them  to talk more about their presenting concern(s) and hopefully to determine their  counselling goals. The counsellor will help  to think through how he wants to address his concern(s), with a view to identifying goals for change. Subsequent sessions will be based on what the student brings to counselling as related to the goals he has established for improvement. A typical counselling session lasts approximately 50 minutes.
Back to top