FAQ's and Factsheets
Counselling and self-help factsheets
Helping a friend
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the counsellor do?
Careful listening is the largest part of what all counsellors
do. They make sure clients have defined the problem areas in their
own terms and help them define what they wish to do next.
Some will then be more active, offering suggestions for further
ways of investigating or beginning to resolve the problems; others
are less interventive and let the work proceed more at the client's
What kinds of problems can I talk to a counsellor about?
There are no hard and fast rules. If something is troubling you
it can be worth spending some time thinking about why this may be
happening. There are however a number of issues that frequently
come up, for example:
- Relationship difficulties: family and friends, colleagues,
commitment, jealousy, abuse.
- Family issues: partners, children, parenting, separation and
- Lack of confidence: worried about failing, never being good
enough, feeling judged.
- Depression: feeling isolated, lonely, empty, tearful, unloved,
- Repeated destructive behaviour: binge eating, harming yourself,
abusive relationships, alcohol, drugs.
- Exam and study stress: out of control, panic attacks, feelings
- Bereavement: loss, anger, loneliness, sadness &
- The counsellor can also direct you to other services that may
be useful to you.
What do I say?
It doesn't really matter how you present your problem. You can
say whatever you like. Sometimes there is silence; sometimes you
might find yourself saying things you had not expected to say. The
counsellor will help you explore the matter and will keep referring
to you to clarify his/her understanding. The sessions are long
enough for you to return to the different areas until you are happy
that you have expressed what you are really feeling.
Will the counsellor give me advice?
Counsellors don't ever give advice of the "I'd leave university
if I was you" variety since the purpose of counselling is to help
you make your own decision. They will never make a moral decision
about the course of action you ought to take. They may sum up what
they understand you have been saying so far in order to help you
move on and form a plan of action. They can offer pointers to how
others have successfully dealt with common problems and may also
make suggestions of the "have you thought of the following"
These suggestions will be drawn from their training in what is
helpful and their experience of what has helped others and of
course can be rejected if you feel they are unhelpful.
At York St John University the Counsellors work very
closely with other professional colleagues whose role is to support
students in a more direct way, we can always signpost you to others
working in Student Services if you feel this would be of extra
How can it be right to be in need of help?
Many of our problems arise just because we are human. We all
make mistakes and have to learn from them, and it is normal to need
several goes before we get something right. Needing help is a
normal part of this process. You could only label it as failure if
you had already decided you must succeed entirely on your own
- which is not a burden you have to impose on yourself. If you
think you've failed, the counsellor might help you see that this is
not all there is to it.
How confidential is counselling?
Counsellors work to a strict Code of Ethics which means they
must inform you of the limits of confidentiality and then stick to
these rules. All new clients will receive an information sheet
outlining how the service operates within this code of ethics, you
may want to ask questions and this can be done in the initial
At York St John university we may at times with your consent
work alongside other professional support staff, we will keep you
informed of this and will not discuss anything without your express
Where can I get further information?
These are lots of useful self-help information and links to
websites that can be accessed via the Key
Contacts section of the Counselling pages.
Does it work for everybody?
No, but it seems to offer at least some help to the majority so
is worth a try. You counsellor will check out with you to see if
talking is helpful - and if not will help you look for something
else. At YSJ we review how the counselling sessions are progressing
after 5 sessions, this is your chance to let us know how you feel
this is going, and if necessary look at alternative counselling
provision within the university or outside.
What if I definitely want a male or female counsellor?
At YSJ we try to accommodate this preference, so please let us
know when you first make contact.
Will the counsellor have experienced problems like mine?
Very possibly. Having problems is part of being human. Many
counsellors come into the work because of their experience of
successfully resolving personal problems through therapy. All will
have had their own experience of being a client. Therefore although
the counsellor may not have experienced the particular problem
which you bring, they will all have had experience of being in
distress and of seeking counselling help from another.
Wouldn't I be better to try and sort it out for myself?
Of course there are ways you can help yourself apart from
counselling - counselling is just one of the answers. Many problems
can be sorted for yourself - however it doesn't need to be an
either/or situation. Counselling is a resource for when you need
extra help. There are lots of self-help resources available, the
counsellors will be happy to signpost you to these.
What about talking to my friends?
Many of the reasons that make counselling effective also apply
to talking with friends. Therefore a talk with a friend may well be
helpful and counsellors often encourage clients to use their social
support network. However there are some drawbacks to using friends
as your only confidants and support.
- Friends might feel a conflict of loyalty and find it hard to
keep things confidential.
- Friends might become upset themselves by what you are telling
- Friends might be put out if you don't accept their advice.
- If you need lots of help friends might begin to feel resentful
and you might feel guilty.
- Finally, sometimes we need slightly more specialist help than
friends can provide.
Counsellors have had training and have formal support and a work
structure which helps them to deal with upsetting and difficult
situations; friends may begin to feel overburdened, especially if
they have their own problems too.
With YSJ being a small community focused University you may feel
that it may be better to speak to people outside of your immediate
support group. Anything said to a counsellor is subject to the
association code of practice.
Does seeing a counsellor mean I am ill?
No, seeing a counsellor doesn't mean you are ill. However, where
there are some symptoms of an illness - depression, anxiety etc -
counselling can be helpful. Counsellors will not treat you as a
sick person, but rather as someone going through a bad time.
Is counselling like psychiatry?
Counselling bears little relation to psychiatry except that both
deal with emotional and mental processes. Psychiatrists are trained
doctors, who work largely through diagnosis of illness and then by
prescribing a treatment - usually involving medication. Counsellors
are normally non-medical personnel who work by talking and
encouraging you to find your own solutions. Counsellors can however
recognise the symptoms of severe mental distress, and may suggest
you consider medical help if this is appropriate.
I'm feeling down: what may help?
Light therapy treatment sessions. The Counsellors have use
of a light box to help people who may suffer from Seasonal
Affective Disorder. If you would like to find out more please
contact the Student Advice Team and they will arrange for a
Counsellor to contact you directly.