What is counseling?

Being self-aware and having the capability to think and feel emotions with clarity and understanding is part and parcel of being human. Unlike animals, our thought processes rely on far more than instinct alone.

Because of this, there is scope for the way we think to become a problem and to affect our emotions. If we go back a few hundred years we can see that psychological issues were approached with fear and unnecessarily invasive treatments. Thanks to the evolution of science and technology we now have a clearer understanding of the human brain and are able to look at these issues in a different way.

Today, the art of talking therapies such as counseling are used to help people come to terms with any problems they are facing, with an ultimate aim of overcoming them. A counselor is not there to sit you down and tell you what to do – instead they will encourage you to talk about what’s bothering you in order to uncover any root causes and identify your specific ways of thinking. The counselor may then look to create a plan of action to either help you reconcile your issues or help you to find ways of coping.

What to expect from counseling?

If you have decided to try counseling, you might be feeling anxious about your first session. Making the decision to get help and address the issues you are facing is an important first step and should be commended.

  • Why are you seeking counseling?– You will most likely be asked what it is that has brought you here. This is your opportunity to discuss exactly why you are there and what you hope to gain from counseling.
  • What is your current situation and personal history?– It is important to let your counselor know your current situation; this includes any day-to-day issues you are facing and even your work and home life. Discussing your personal history will give your counselor a chance to understand more about you as a person and why these issues may have occurred.
  • What symptoms are you experiencing?– Whether these are physical or psychological, it is important to discuss any symptoms with your counselor.

It is advised that you be honest and open when answering these questions in order to get the most out of your counseling sessions.

Your counselor should establish some clear boundaries when you begin your sessions that cover the following:

  • Dates and times of the counseling sessions
  • Confidentiality agreement
  • Clarification of the professional nature of the counselor/client relationship
  • How and when the counselor can be contacted outside of sessions.

How can counseling 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. Counseling can help people remember the strengths they have, identified the specific problem they are experiencing, and determine the direction they need to take to resolve that problem. Counseling 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.

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

Individuals seek resources outside of themselves (like counseling) 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 counseling services. Students seek counseling for a wide range of issues and concerns and they do not need to be in crisis to benefit from counseling.

  • Common issues for which students seek counseling 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 behavior
  • Identity issues
  • Acute concern on behalf of another student

Will other people know that I am seeing a counselor?

We recognize that confidentiality is extremely important to students who seek our services and we assure it within applicable legal and ethical guidelines. Your counselor 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 counseling process nor the fact that you have been seen at Personal Counseling 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 counselors are obligated by law and/or ethical professional standards to report information to relevant authorities/third parties. Your counselor will review our confidentiality policy with you at the beginning of your first session. Please see our privacy policy for further information.

How can I make the best of my counseling sessions?

  • Counseling 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 counseling rests on your genuine, honest and active participation in the process. There are several things you can do to help make the counseling process work for you:
  • Attend all of your scheduled sessions or appointments.(if you are unable to attend, please let your group leader or counselor 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