In this issue
‘Get out, stay out’ – a careers mentoring scheme for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students (free article)
Sean Russell gives an overview of an innovative project aimed at helping LGBT students into the world of work
Counselling across time zones
Online counselling opens up the potential for living in one place and working in another. Sari Robinson describes
working for Cardiff University – while living in California
Life after uni: a step into the unknown?
With one eye on graduation and the world beyond, most students experience some level of career anxiety. Sarah Robinson puts the case for closer collaboration between counselling and careers services in order to engage with students at a key point of their student journey
Developing emotional wellbeing
Learning in a group setting is both powerful and a realistic way to help many students who experience the normal anxieties of new educational and social settings. Wellbeing advisors Sue Knight and Abi Tura are enthusiastic about the benefits of compassionate psychoeducation
Delivering online support: the nuts and bolts behind a student-friendly service
Getting to grips with the legal and technical underpinnings of providing online services can be daunting. In the second of her series exploring online counselling, Sarah Worley-James guides us through the minefield
Notes from FE
Notes from the Chair
Notes from HUCS
From the editor
‘I don’t think you need counselling.’ Have you ever said that to a student who has sought your help or support? I have. And do. ‘You need to see a counsellor’ has, in many instances, become shorthand for ‘I think you need help’. And this explains – in part at least – the huge demand we all struggle with every year as more and more students – as well as their parents and tutors – see life problems through the lens of ‘mental health’ and conclude that they need psychological or talking therapy.
But counselling isn’t appropriate or necessary for everyone and we shouldn’t pretend that it is: I believe we risk undermining the distinctive features of counselling if it comes to be seen as a first-line option for any and all emotional distress. We need, as professionals, to have the confidence to say ‘No’ – with care and compassion – to some of the students who make their way to our services. And while some students seem disappointed when I tell them that I think another service would be more appropriate for them, others seem relieved. Being told that actually there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with you, that your problems are understandable and there are other really good services which can help sort things out, can be a great relief. It reduces a sense of being at fault, or the sense that the issue is an individual problem rather than an environmental or social one. As one student recently wrote in the Warwick University Student Union newspaper, The Boar, after attending a counselling assessment: ‘From [the counsellor’s] reassurances and suggestion that I needn’t make a followup appointment… I began to realise that I was neither a particularly “serious” or stand-alone case.’ 1
But if we are to point students to other sources of support, it’s crucial that we develop strong links with other services, individuals and projects on our campuses, in our cities and towns, and within the NHS. ‘I don’t think you need counselling’ is certainly not the same as saying ‘You don’t need help or support’. It’s simply honest to acknowledge that a given issue may not be most amenable to resolution in counselling, that certain students may not be ready to make use of therapy, or that something else could have a greater positive impact on them.
So this issue has as its theme ‘collaboration’. We need to develop collaborative links with other teams, and know how to refer students to them. Careers services, chaplaincies, wellbeing services, mental health advisors, tutors, student mentors, GPs, academic skills centres, and others… all represent a wide range of resources. Students are fortunate in having access to these services and interventions (although it can often seem that we are all struggling to cope with the level of need and demand) and in this issue we explore some of what other services potentially have to offer. I’m convinced that we need to help students realise that being connected with high quality, professional support takes many forms and that counselling – while an important part of the support network – is not the be-all-and-end-all for every problem.
I noted in the last issue that ‘No man is an island’.2 I would like to think, too, that ‘No counselling service is an island’: we work best when we maintain a compassionate, equitable flow of inward and onward referrals, when we work collaboratively with professionals in other specialisms, and when we acknowledge our debt to those who support us in our work.
David Mair, editor firstname.lastname@example.org
1. The Boar, Wednesday, 22 February 2017; 39(9).
2. https://web.cs.dal.ca/~johnston/poetry/island.html (accessed 3 March, 2017).