What we do
Information for students considering coming to counselling
The Counselling Service offers confidential help with a wide range of personal and emotional concerns, and is available to every student at this university free of charge. All kinds of students find their way to us from all over the University and for all sorts of reasons. If you are experiencing difficulties, it is important to think about what kind of help you need.
Do I need to come to the Counselling Service?
Often people find they can resolve their problems with the help of family, friends, staff in their academic department, their GP (It is important to register with a GP in Portsmouth), a Chaplain or, if you are living in Halls, the Student Support Manager in your Halls. Some people prefer to rely on their own resources and we have an extensive Self-help and other resources section, which is useful in this situation. At other times it feels really important to talk to someone outside your daily life experience, and it makes sense then to come to the University Counselling Service. Coming to counselling is about making the positive choice that you believe counselling is the kind of help you would most benefit from. You do not have to be in crisis to come to counselling; you may just be feeling unhappy or confused, and feel you would like to talk about this. Of course, if you are in crisis, the Counselling Service will provide help, although if you need to talk to someone urgently, or you need emergency medical or psychiatric help, another service may be more appropriate. Please see our In Crisis? page for more information.
Some students choose E-counselling rather than coming to see a counsellor in person and there may be a variety of reasons for this. If you would like to consider this option, further information is available via the link in the menu to the left.
What kind of concerns do students have who come to the Counselling Service?
There is a whole range of problems which students might wish to talk to a counsellor about. Below are some examples (there are specific self-help suggestions available on our website too):
personal change and development
stress, anxiety or depression
concerns about academic work
homesickness or isolation
life-style issues, such as drug and alcohol use, eating patterns, sleep patterns.
What might I expect from counselling sessions?
Counselling, whether face to face or by email, is a private, purposeful conversation with a person who will listen to you, think with you about the issues and help you find a way forward. Usually a counselling appointment lasts about an hour, but, when appropriate, shorter or longer sessions are arranged. For some people a single session will be all they want, as it will allow them the opportunity to talk over their concerns with a counsellor; if you feel you need further individual counselling, then your counsellor will discuss with you what we can offer, given your personal situation and our own resources. Most people are seen for a brief period, but longer term counselling may be considered if appropriate. If it transpires that we are not the best people to help you, then we can refer you to a more appropriate service.
Counselling is a collaborative process which requires commitment, motivation and active involvement on the part of the student. Generally counsellors do not provide advice or prescribe a course of action, but will explore your personal dilemma with you in order to help you gain clarity and find your own solution for the best way forward. Your counsellor will listen to your concerns and respond in a non-judgemental manner, respecting your values and your life choices.
How do I make an appointment?
It is very important to read all the information on this page, so that you can feel certain that you would like to come to counselling. If, once you have read and reflected on that information, you have decided that you would like to come to counselling, then the first stage is for you to complete a Pre-Counselling Form which will help us to place you with an appropriate counsellor and which you can download here as a Word document:
If downloading presents problems you can request the form as an attachment by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org , or you can collect one in person from Nuffield Reception and complete it there in privacy or take it home to complete. Once the completed form is received it will be read only by a counsellor and you will be offered an appointment as soon as one is available at a time which you can manage. We will then ask you to fill in a brief standard questionnaire before each session to let us know how you are. The information is a valuable way for you and the counsellor to keep track together of how things are going and make the most of the sessions. How or whether you answer the questionnaire will not limit your access to the service in any way. .
The pre-counselling form is normally read on the next working day from receiving it. If you need a more urgent response you can call the duty counsellor on 023 9284 3157 or contact a Chaplain on the same number. (See also the 'In Crisis?' section of this website.)
Who will know about my counselling sessions?
We take confidentiality very seriously. What you say to your counsellor is not disclosed to anyone outside the Counselling Service without your permission and no-one will know that you have contacted us unless you decide to tell them.
Practical details (from Part 1 of the form) are kept on a secure database that is only accessed by counsellors and the counselling receptionists. Some of this information, including your standard questionnaire responses, is also stored securely using a number code on an encrypted remote database to be used for statistical,research and service evaluation purposes; it will never be identifiable. Each counsellor keeps hard copy notes of the counselling sessions to help them reflect on what has been talked about. These notes are kept securely for three years and are then shredded, along with Part 2 of the form.
Your counselling contact will not be recorded on academic or medical records. Maintaining confidentiality is a top priority in the Counselling Service and can help you to feel free to explore things fully. The only exception is when the counsellor believes that you or others are at risk of serious harm. Even then, if at all possible, the situation will be fully discussed with you, or if you are currently involved with a police investigation, in which case what is discussed in counselling may be limited by the case and it is possible for a court to request to see the notes, or if you are involved in terrorism or money laundering.
The Counselling Service abides by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy's Ethical Framework. (A copy of the Framework is also available for reference from Reception in the Nuffield Centre.)
What happens if I miss an appointment?
Continuity is a really important part of counselling. Each year a number of sessions are wasted because people do not turn up for appointments and do not let us know ahead of time. This is very frustrating when other students are waiting for an appointment and cannot get one. For this reason, we ask you to let us know if exceptional circumstances arise and you cannot attend. If you change your mind about counselling, it also helps if you can inform us about this. If you do not attend, and do not let us know, unfortunately we may have to cancel further sessions. (Of course, we would not do this where unavoidable difficulties had made it impossible for you to contact us in advance.)
In addition to individual counselling the Counselling Service runs groups which some students find useful. Please follow this link for more information Groups and events
Follow this link to find information about our policy on supporting applications for Extenuating circumstances.