Frequently asked questions

Will you tell anyone such as my department about my problems?

Counselling is confidential. However with your permission we may contact your academic department, for example, if it would help in arranging a temporary break in your studies.

What are the limits of confidentiality?

Everything you say is kept confidential to the Counselling Service except in cases where we think you or another person is at risk of serious harm.

What do you mean by someone being at risk of serious harm?

If we fear a client may attempt suicide we will involve others - normally a GP, but sometimes a member of University staff. This is normally done with the client's agreement, but may be done without if no other reasonable course can be agreed and the risk of immediate serious self-harm seems very high. The same applies if we fear a client may be at immediate risk due to severe mental illness.

If we fear another person is very much at risk - maybe because the client is intent upon a serious criminal action or tells us of someone else who is - we may have to make a disclosure. However, normally we will discuss the issue with the student and arrange for them to deal with the problem themselves without there being a breach of confidentiality.

What if I report a crime during a counselling session?

If a serious crime is reported the counsellor will need to speak to the Head of Student Wellbeing to get advice about what to do next. A serious crime is defined as a sexual offence or a violent offence. The University has to balance the need for confidentiality with wider responsibilities to ensure public protection.

Will other members of the Student Counselling Service know what I have talked about?

The counsellors may discuss general elements of their work together in confidence as part of their supervision and case management support. The receptionists will know some details as they receive referrals, and pass on messages, but they will not be aware of the contents of counselling sessions. ALL Student Support staff maintain strict client information confidentiality.

Where can I get further information?

You can look at our page on Ethics or consult the British Association for Counselling. A copy of our code of Ethics is available in our office.

What exactly is counselling?

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 focus more on the client's own process, and let the work proceed more at the client's pace.

How long will the counselling last and how often are the sessions?

The service is aimed to offer short-term interventions and the majority of clients find between one and six sessions is adequate to help them but there is no limit on the number of sessions. Sessions are usually weekly. Where there is a requirement for long term or open-ended work the counsellor will help you to access support.