Policies & Procedures

The information below provides details regarding policies and procedures of Personal Counselling Services (PCS) that are located within Counselling & Disability Services (CDS).

CDS serves the entire York University community, including students, staff, and faculty.  Priority for on-campus counselling services is given to students, while staff or faculty may be assisted in obtaining a referral to another appropriate agency providing counselling services.  CDS recognizes that the diversity of the university community is a source of excellence, enrichment and strength.  CDS affirms its commitment to human rights, and in particular to the principle that every member of the York University community has a right to equitable treatment, without harassment or discrimination on the grounds prohibited by the Ontario Human Rights Code, including race, ancestry, place of origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, or disability.

Our Counselling Services

We provide short-term individual, couple and group counselling services. Following a brief intake session in which the client’s presenting problems and circumstances are clarified, clients may be offered counselling at PCS, or, in some cases, referred to an appropriate resource in the community. Ordinarily, clients requesting or needing long-term treatment are referred to appropriate services off campus.

Eligibility for Personal Counselling Services

All York University students who are currently registered and enrolled in courses, or who are graduate students working on other academic requirements are eligible for services through PCS.

There are, however, some limitations as to the type and timing of services that we can provide and to the situations under which we provide services. These are listed below (please note, however, that even if a student  falls into one of the categories listed below and is ineligible for ongoing service, we may be able to help  in other ways and/or give  referrals to more appropriate services):

  • We do not provide all types of counselling services.  Students may be referred to another counselling service or refused service if we deem it clinically and/or ethically appropriate to do so (e.g. If the concerns are beyond the capacity of this office to effectively treat);
  • We work on a relatively short-term model, and may need to refer students to another service that provides longer-term treatment;
  • At certain times of the year, due to excessive demand on our services, we may refer a student  to an outside agency that can provide service  on a more timely basis;
  •  We reserve the right to deny further services to any individual who abuses or misuses services in any manner (e.g. non-compliance with treatment, frequent missed appointments, etc.);
  • We see our clients on a voluntary basis and do not provide counselling for those who seek services for court-ordered or forensically-oriented treatment;

 The Philosophy of Short-Term Counselling

Counselling is, typically, a “conversation”, in which the client and counsellor work together to achieve the client’s goals of change or improvement.  The client’s task is to talk about whatever difficulties are of most concern; the more open and honest one can be, the faster the work may progress.  The counsellor’s task is to listen carefully, look for patterns in one’s thinking, feeling and behaviour, point out alternative interpretations of events, ask questions to stimulate thinking, and facilitate the formulating of strategies for solving problems.  It is not usually appropriate for the counsellor to offer opinions, give direct advice, or tell you what to do in a certain situation.  Counselling helps you to come to your own well-considered decisions about courses of action.

The personal counselling services offered here are intended to be change-oriented and relatively brief.  You will be encouraged to collaborate actively with your counsellor in a process that emphasizes your competence, strengths, and possibilities, rather than your limitations.  Your counsellor will help you to develop clear and specific goals, so that you can measure your progress and know when counselling is complete. The frequency of sessions may range from weekly to monthly, or longer.

While counselling is meant to be a helpful experience, this, unfortunately, cannot be guaranteed.  It is not uncommon for clients to experience an increase in symptoms or emotional discomfort prior to any potential improvement.  In the process of examining one area of concern, other issues may be identified which appear to add to the client’s difficulties.  It is possible that interpersonal relationships may be adversely affected in the client’s counselling, as the client begins to understand a situation from a new perspective.  Nevertheless, 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, or positive change in personal relationships.

Staff Supervision

A number of counsellors in PCS are master’s or doctoral psychology or social work students, who are completing their practica and internships as part of their professional training.  These trainees are supervised to ensure a high quality of service.  Supervisory staff hold advanced degrees (eg., MA, PhD, MSW, EdD.) and have extensive experience in mental health services.  The supervisory and training process is greatly facilitated by the use of audio recordings.  Therefore, it is departmental practice to record intern counselling sessions.  These recordings are used for supervisory and training process.  The recordings are kept in locked, confidential files and are typically erased within two weeks. 

Privacy of Information   

Our clients’ personal information is held in utmost confidence, as set out in the attached CDS Client Privacy Statement.  Personal information is maintained and disposed of in a secure manner, in compliance with relevant privacy legislation.  Electronic files are stored in an encrypted database.

Flow of Information

Client records are maintained in locked file cabinets at PCS.  Occasionally, consultation may be necessary between PCS and other professional staff within CDS.  This sharing of relevant information may result sometimes in other staff in CDS having access to the information in the client’s PCS file.  All staff that do have access to PCS files are required to maintain strict levels of confidentiality as outlined in the attached Privacy Statement and to refer only to information relevant to the services they are providing.

Appointments

PCS tries to meet the needs of all clients.  As the school year progresses, there is an increasing demand for our services and, consequently, waiting lists rapidly develop.  In order to accommodate many students, we need to ensure that every available space is used.  Therefore, please keep your appointments as scheduled.  In the event that you are unable to attend, please notify us at least 24 hours in advance, or as soon as possible.

Unless warranted by exceptional circumstances, if you miss two (2) intake appointments, two individual counselling, or two group appointments without notifying us at least 24 hours in advance, you may not be allowed to book another appointment for the rest of the academic term. Clients cancelling repeatedly may also be refused additional service.  However, PCS reserves the right to make decisions about services on a case by case basis, taking clinical information into account.

Please note that you must call during office hours (Hours of Operation) as there is no voicemail.

We have a grace period of 15 minutes past your scheduled appointment time. After this grace period, you may be asked to reschedule.

E-mail and Internet Policy

Email is not a confidential form of communication.  Therefore, PCS does not conduct counselling by email, and discourages the use of email communication between clients and counselling staff, except for scheduling appointments.  Our counsellors do not accept invitations from clients to participate in their online social networks, nor do they invite clients to participate in their own personal online social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter).

Letters of Reference

CDS practitioners are unable to provide letters of reference for students unless they have supervised the student in a work, volunteer or academic capacity.

Questions or Comments

Should you have any questions, concerns or suggestions regarding the information provided above or any other aspects of the counselling process, feel free to discuss them with your counsellor at any time. You may also ask to meet your counsellor’s supervisor at any time. Clients are free to discontinue counselling at any time, although it is usually advisable to discuss the reasons for considering discontinuing with your counsellor prior to acting on your decision.

Please sign below to affirm that you have read and received a copy of these Policies and Procedures and the CDS Client Privacy Statement.

Signature: ____________________________________________________

Date: ________________________________________________________
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