• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

University Counselling Service Falls Short

ByFreddie Clemo

Feb 14, 2023
an image of the University of Edinburgh's Health and Well-Being Centre

Edinburgh University’s counselling services offer short-term counselling and other therapies, ranging from four to six sessions per self-referral. The Student spoke to Edinburgh University students who have used the counselling service, about their experience of the short-term help they received, and whether they believe the University should be offering more.

Rose*, a fourth-year student, told The Student that the six sessions of CBT she had with the counselling services benefited her:

“I was stressed immediately after the sessions ended, because I no longer had the therapist to talk to, but looking back even the short-term help was beneficial. Obviously it would have been nice to have more than six sessions, even having eight sessions would have been good. But I appreciated how the therapist left me with self-help options, and how generous she was with how long the sessions were. They were supposed to be forty-five minutes, but she gave me an hour, which was a lot more beneficial. She gave me lots of documents and diagrams on techniques to use, and these have been helpful going forward.”

When asked whether the university should offer long term counselling, Rose said:

“It’s a difficult question, because it seems at the moment that it wouldn’t be feasible to offer more than 4-6 sessions to each student. For me, the wait times were very short to get counselling. If the university offered full time therapy to students, it could mean an increase in the waiting times, and ultimately less students getting help.”

According to the Counselling Directory, short-term therapy can be beneficial and offer quick results to those who have a specific or well-defined issue. However, it often falls short with longer term issues.

Rose told The Student that she wouldn’t recommend the counselling service for a serious issue that needed more long-term support, and she believes that this is an issue that the service should address.

Another fourth-year student, Jane*, pointed to this issue:

“If you are unable to get private therapy, there is no in-between. Either the case is severe enough to get help through the NHS services, where the waiting lists are long, or it must be mild enough that four to six sessions that the university offer are enough to help. It is hard to know where to go if you fall in-between these two categories.”

Jane told The Student that she has been put off using the counselling services due to the fact that they only offer limited sessions and short-term help. She said:

“The main issue with the lack of sessions is that it takes a few sessions to get comfortable with the therapist, and for you to realise the issues that you are dealing with. By the time you are able to start addressing the issues, the sessions are over.”

The Student spoke to Olivia*, who was told that her “issues” were likely to be “too much” for the services, and she was recommended to turn to private therapy instead. She said:

“I applied to the counselling service wanting to address a short-term issue that was going on. It was established in my consultation that because I also had long term factors going on in my life, the recommendation was that the university services would not offer enough support. It felt like because I had multiple issues, the only option was private therapy, which I wasn’t able to get. This put me in a very difficult position, and I ended up going through with the four sessions. The therapist was very helpful, but it definitely felt like the sessions abruptly ended. Even a few more sessions would have made a big difference.”

The overwhelming consensus from students is that the counselling service needs to increase resources in order to offer more long-term help to students, without increasing the waiting times.

The Student reached out to the counselling service for comment.

*names have been changed for privacy reasons

Image Courtesy of Freddie Clemo