Focus on counselling: In times of personal trouble...
By Brad Lister
When the pressures of university student life are far too much, help is available at the Student Development Centre.
Occupying a space on the second floor of the University Community Centre, the office not only employs counsellors but other Western students who are ready to help.
Dr. Kathy Dance, psychologist at the centre, says the service they provide for students is quite broad. "We do individual psychological counselling as well as some group work," she says. If the centre can't manage the therapy, she says they will refer the cases elsewhere.
Counselling is also provided in the areas of education and employment. The development centre is there to help with every aspect of student life.
Do most students know the service is there for them? Not really. According to recent research, Dance says only 49.4 per cent of 2,653 students surveyed knew the centre provided psychological counselling.
"When students do seek help, though, we get a lot of referrals from their friends afterwards," she says. Dance says in a lot of cases students are actually receiving help from other students in the university and she currently supervises eight interns. They include students from programs in clinical psychology, social work and art therapy. They get a chance to help and we provide them training, says Dance.
Daniela Kristini is one of those interns. Kristini is a student in the masters of education in counselling program. "I'm there for two full days and I typically see about four clients on a regular basis and there also days when there are drop-in cases."
The problems that are brought into therapy are wide-ranging but the biggest, says Dance, are depression and anxiety. She adds the pressures of school work definitely add to any personal problems students may have. "We help them to try and function again," she says.
Kristini says during counselling sessions they try to make the connection with the individual and facilitate a safe environment.
The service does get some feedback from students who use it as they are asked to fill out a questionnaire. Of the the latest results, 246 students answered the questionnaire and on average rated the service 3.8 out of four.
Dance says for those who feel they need help, "don't be afraid." The apprehension is part of the stigma that comes from having to seek help, says Kristini, adding that everything is completely confidential. Dance adds further, "come and talk with someone."