University can be a very exciting and rewarding time in someone’s life. However it can also be a period of overwhelming change and stress. For many young people it’s the first crack at independent living: managing money, cooking and creating a daily structure. Some students also experience a huge culture shock as they move from small villages to big cities.
Studying itself can be difficult for lots of different reasons. With the stress of exams and considerable amount of work, trying to balance home life with studies can really wear people down. The whole experience of working towards a future you’re still not sure about can feel terrifying, while past traumatic experiences can hold people back from doing well in their studies at a time when they should be thriving.
One method of addressing some of these difficulties is to see a counsellor. By having counselling you can have the time and space to explore what is troubling you in a safe, confidential setting with a trained professional who is separate from your personal and academic life.
…Some see accessing this type of therapy as a sign of weakness…
There can be a stigma attached to counselling. Some see accessing this type of therapy as a sign of weakness; in actuality, the opposite is true. Counselling is all about empowering people and bringing out the best in them. So, by taking the step to ask for some support, you’re showing your strength.
There’s also an assumption that counselling can be expensive. While this can be true there are ways for students to access, good quality, free or low cost counselling sessions. Most colleges and universities have a counselling service that’s part of the student services department. They will offer free counselling sessions to their students and staff. These sessions will normally take place on campus, but somewhere unobtrusive and private.
…University counselling services this will be free…
University counselling services may be very busy depending on their size and accessibility. The busiest periods are likely to be from November to May each year. If this is the case there may be a waiting list you could join or you may be offered a referral to a local charity or counselling service for a faster appointment time somewhere off campus.
Counselling is also available on the NHS. The NHS Choices website says that around half the GP surgeries in England provide counselling services to their patients. As with University counselling services this will be free. If you want to gain access to one of these services, the first port of call will be to book an appointment to see your GP. They will be aware of what’s available locally and can refer you for the most suitable treatment. You can sometimes self refer for NHS counselling. However, this will depend on your local Clinical Commissioning Group.
…Many private practice counsellors are well aware of the financial constraints faced by students…
Again, there can be big waiting lists but this isn’t always the case and could be worth checking out. The counsellors working for the NHS may only be able to offer a short number of sessions, usually 6-8, but are likely to be highly experienced practitioners.
Many counsellors are self-employed and work with clients privately. There’s a cost involved with this; however, there will be advantages. Private Counsellors are likely to have more flexibility with appointment times. They’ll also be able to offer an open ended amount of sessions, so you can finish counselling when you feel good and ready. Many private practice counsellors are well aware of the financial constraints faced by students and are happy to negotiate a lower fee, making counselling much more affordable.
The best place to look for self-employed counsellors is on the internet. Most will have websites, as well as profiles on directories specifically for counsellors and psychotherapists. These include:
Pink Therapy (For LGBTQ people)
These directories require the counsellors on their list to be registered with an accrediting counselling body and provide details of their qualifications and insurance. It will be on the counsellor’s profile pages where they’ll state if they offer a reduced price for students and low income earners.
…you can create your own safe space where you feel comfortable to talk…
Therapists are increasingly offering counselling via Skype. The advantage of this is that you wouldn’t have to travel anywhere and you can create your own safe space where you feel comfortable to talk. A fast internet connection and a webcam are essential for the success of this method.
If you’re interested in having counselling it may be a good idea to get in touch with a few counsellors and/or services to enquire about price, location, availability and experience, as well as asking questions you might have about counselling in order to see which is the best fit is for you.