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Coping with crisis: How UCA’s counselling service can help

Let’s be honest — things have been pretty strange and at times, tough, lately. While some people might actually be loving lockdown life, there’s many who aren’t finding it as easy.

18 May 2020

There’s a great article about how many are feeling a kind of grief, and that’s a pretty decent analogy, especially since as human beings we all process and experience grief differently. It always hurts, but how one manages it and carries on, varies from person to person.

You might be struggling with establishing a new routine, missing family, stressed about your studies or exhausted by a messed up sleep pattern.

So, we thought we’d have a chat with Christina Lewis, who is the head of Gateway Services, which runs UCA’s counselling service. She told us about what services are on offer, how it works, and how it could potentially help you.

Counselling is a chance to discuss with a trained professional any difficult thoughts or feelings you may be having.

It can be helpful at any stage of your university life for you to explore, understand and find strategies for issues impacting on your academic work, social life or even your sense of general wellbeing.

You may find counselling useful when dealing with anxiety and stress, low mood or depression, relationship issues, family difficulties, sexual and gender identity, low self-esteem, bereavement and social difficulties.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we have had to close our face-to-face services and move to online counselling and emotional support at UCA.

Our online counselling and emotional support services offer the same level of confidentiality and professionalism as face-to-face sessions and, depending on what your counsellor can offer, this can be done either by email, over the telephone or in video calls.

Any student currently enrolled at UCA can access these free services in the short term — we might then refer you to another UCA support service or to your doctor if we feel It’s necessary.

There are a number of signs that might indicate you’d benefit from counselling, and if you’re feeling any of the below then do get in touch:

  • Not feeling yourself
  • Feeling sad or angry or low over a period of time
  • Eating or sleeping more or less than usual
  • Withdrawing from relationships with family or friends
  • Finding it difficult to focus on tasks
  • Feeling unmotivated or disconnected with activities you normally love
  • Noticing you are drinking more (or using other substances more often)
  • Finding day-to-day activities getting on top of you, making you feel stressed or anxious
  • Feeling like you cannot find the answer to something that has been troubling over a period of time
  • Feeling like issues from your past are having an impact on your day to day life
  • If you’ve lost someone or something important to you
  • Feeling isolated and alone.

Students can find more information about the service and download a counselling request form via our website. Just download the form, fill it out and send it to counselling@uca.ac.uk.

First, you will be offered an assessment. The assessment is a chance for you to begin to explore your situation with a counsellor and chance for you and the counsellor to decide together whether counselling is the appropriate kind of support for your situation.

If counselling is the way forward for you, you will usually be offered weekly sessions for an agreed period of time. We will explore with you what you hope to gain from the sessions.

If counselling is not appropriate at this stage, we will explain why and refer you to support or services that would more likely fit your needs.

If you have a particularly complex problem or you feel at high risk of harm, then you should contact your doctor. You can find more information on our Medical Emergency page.

If you are seeking immediate emotional support, you may wish to consider contacting the Samaritans on 116 123, or SHOUT by texting Shout to 85258.

In your counselling sessions, you will have the chance to express your feelings, explore your difficulties and, with the support of your counsellor, develop your awareness of what may be contributing to them and consider strategies to move your life in the direction you want it to go.

Our counselling team are experienced therapists who can offer a tailored approach by using a range of different models, strategies, and approaches to help you gain the most from your counselling sessions.

We can discuss a whole range of things, which can be related to the current crisis, like depression and anxiety, stress (personal and academic), transition and change (coping with the lockdown and social isolation, for example) or managing your relationships during this time.

As well as that, we can also talk through other issues, like cultural differences and identity, gender identity, eating disorders, substance misuse and managing your own and others’ expectations of you.

And we’ll help you come up with strategies to help you deal with any issues you may have — from problem-solving tasks and mood-boosting exercises, to helping you build your confidence, practicing mindfulness and helping you feel empowered to seek new solutions.

The important thing to know is that we are here. Please don’t feel alone, or that you cannot express how you’re feeling for whatever reason — your feelings are valid and there is help available if you want it.

Well, if you were to have email counselling then you would exchange emails with your counsellor.

You will be given an appointment time, which will be when your counsellor will read and reply to your email message. You will be asked to send in your email at least 24 hours before your ‘appointment time’ to ensure your counsellor has plenty of time to read what you’ve written, and compose a reply

The process of writing about difficult thoughts and feelings may be very helpful in itself. You may be able to express yourself more freely or in different ways. You’re free to write your messages at your own pace, without being influenced by how someone is reacting to you. You can reflect on the message and make sure it is what you want to say before you send it.

If you were to have telephone counselling, then we would agree an appointment time and you can discuss your concerns over the phone for up to 50 minutes. The same goes for an online video call, via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

If you’re having a telephone or video chat there are a few things to think about to make sure you feel comfortable and secure. Find a quiet space to talk where you cannot be overheard and won’t be disturbed. Have a drink of water near, and some tissues within reach, just in case.

Also, with face-to-face counselling, a lot of communication is exchanged through our body language so with email and telephone counselling, we may need to use more words to express ourselves.