Each week, we interview someone from around Adelaide who might be helpful during your time as an international student. This week’s guest:
Vicki McCoy, Coordinator
Why do students see a Counsellor?
Most students come to see us because they are feeling like something isn’t quite as it should be. Either in their personal life, their studies, or they’re just not feeling very well mentally.
So when you’re not feeling yourself?
Not feeling yourself. Yes.
And usually a feeling that way for quite a while – not when you’re just having one off day?
Yes. Most students I see will say ‘I’ve been thinking about this for a while.’
When a student does come here, and sits down with a Counsellor, what does that session look like?
The first counselling session can feel a little bit funny, because it’s getting to know you, and finding out the key thing that you want to work on. Sometimes people come in with one or two things that they want to work on, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on as well that they need to talk about. So it can be quite broad, the first session.
“everything that’s talked about in the room remains in that room, and is confidential with the counsellor”
What kinds of support can you get from seeing a Counsellor?
It could be very practical support, to support managing your studies somehow – for example, with extensions, or helping you apply for replacement exams, or helping you if you need a retrospective grade change – that kind of support.
Then there is the more kind of therapeutic counselling; looking at a problem and working out strategies, and tactics – ways of working on problems that respond really well to particular forms of therapy and counselling.
So we have practical support, and therapeutic counselling. Sometimes it’s a combination of both.
In the context of a counselling session, what does ‘confidential’ mean?
It means that everything that’s talked about in the room remains in that room, and is confidential with the counsellor. There are two exceptions that we’re legally obliged to follow: if sometime is at risk of harming themselves or other people. But even in that case, we would be talking to you about it – we don’t suddenly contact someone without you knowing about it.
So it’s not going behind the student’s back with anyone.
Not going behind their back. We don’t talk to lecturers, we don’t talk to other staff, we don’t talk to your parents.
And it doesn’t appear on your student record.
It doesn’t appear anywhere on your record that you’ve seen a Counsellor – no one knows that you’ve been to Counselling Support. That’s not visible. It’s only if you want us to talk to someone that we would talk to someone else.
If you’re worried about confidentiality, you can come and talk about that first. Sometimes students do come in, and they want to understand that fully before they commit to seeing a counsellor. That’s absolutely OK.
How can I make an appointment? Drop in, or email…?
You can walk to make an appointment, you can phone in, and we have an online form as well.
And what if I don’t feel comfortable coming in, and talking face to face?
We do phone appointments, absolutely. Sometimes we might be emailing students with information, but we haven’t formally gone into email counselling. Sometimes if you’re overseas, we might use Skype, if that works – it depends on what people are comfortable with.
Say I’m worried about a friend. What can I do to help?
That’s a really good question, because a lot of students do ask that. You can come in and talk to us about your friend, you could talk to your friend and offer to come with them to counselling.
If you’re really concerned – if you think something is imminently not OK, then you should contact us and say ‘I’m really concerned about my friend’, and we can then make contact with them for you. And we can do that without saying ‘your friend told us to contact you’. We often have lecturers, students, or staff saying they’re worried about someone. And every time I’ve done that, I’ve never had a student say ‘I wish you hadn’t called me’. They have all said ‘I’m really glad you called’.
Read more about Counselling Support on their website.