Individual and Group Counselling
Student Counselling Video
What is Counselling?
The primary purpose of the Student Counselling Service is to support students coping with difficult emotions in their lives within and outside Imperial College.
There are times in everyone’s lives when we experience difficulties we cannot sort out on our own. At these times people close to us can often provide the help we need. However, some concerns may feel too difficult, embarrassing or painful to share with friends, family or tutors. It is then advisable to seek help, in order to avoid things getting worse and a growing feeling of isolation and hopelessness.
Counselling is a process in which a person – the client – talks about an issue they feel troubled about, with the skilled attention of another person – the counsellor. During the process – and outside of the counselling sessions – the client is likely to reflect on the issues they have brought to counselling, with a view to clarifying their situation and considering options for a course of action. Your counsellor will generally not tell you what to do – although s/he will suggest others in College you can speak to if that seems appropriate – since the process of counselling encourages clients to create their own ways forward, in the supportive environment of the counselling room.
We will offer you the first initial conversation we have available. However, we are not an emergency service. If you need to speak to someone quickly, there are people at College you can contact in the first instance – College staff you already know, perhaps your personal tutor, wellbeing adviser or warden. Wardens and sub-wardens provide 24-hour support if you are living in halls of residence. Please note that our services are only accessible to students currently residing within the UK.
If you are experiencing difficulties with your mental health whilst outside of the UK, please consider referring to the below for support:
If you feel in crisis and need to speak to someone urgently, please contact one of the services listed at other sources of help.
To register, fill in this registration form.
Please note - Our referral system is currently accepting submissions Mon - Fri 08:00 - 19:00. Any referrals submitted after 4pm will be reviewed the next working day. If you or someone else need urgent support please see: Other sources of help
Navigating counselling services: Your questions answered
How do I know if counselling is right for me?
The Counselling Service offers talking therapy which is a collaborative process where you will have the opportunity to explore any emotional difficulties you may be experiencing and think together with your counsellor about how to address your concerns and improve your wellbeing. During your sessions, your counsellor won’t necessarily just tell you what to do, but rather will support you in better understanding your problems and encourage you to think about ways you can look after yourself.
If instead you are looking for more specific tips and strategies to try out, we recommend exploring our other offerings first, including self-directed support, and our workshops, or courses.
What kind of difficulties can I talk about in counselling?
"This is my first year at College… I’ve never lived away from home before; I feel homesick. I used to be top of my class; now the work is so much more demanding and there are people on my course who are more intelligent than me!"
"I can’t focus on my work; I feel low and I don’t understand what’s happening to me. Sometimes I feel anxious for no apparent reason."
In addition, students bring a range of issues associated with academic problems, low mood, stress and anxiety, depression, relationship issues, loneliness, bereavement, issues around sexuality, self-esteem or self-harm.
Students with the following concerns will likely need a different type or level of care than what is within the role and scope of the Student Counselling Service. The list below reflects general guidelines and is intended only as a guide.
- Students who appear to have longer-term treatment needs or concerns which a brief therapy model of treatment will not appropriately address (see the difference between long-term and short-term therapy below)
- Students who are already receiving ongoing therapy with another mental health provider
- Students seeking therapy for the sole purpose of obtaining documentation for another process (e.g. Mitigating Circumstances)
- Active eating disorders requiring medical intervention/monitoring – Instead we would encourage you to speak with your GP, or you can find more specialised support through The UK's Eating Disorder Charity - Beat (beateatingdisorders.org.uk)
- Comprehensive assessments (e.g. learning disabilities, ADHD) – carried out by the Disability Advisory Service
- Specialised services beyond the clinical expertise of the Student Counselling Service staff
If you are unsure or have any questions, please do get in touch and you can discuss your concerns with a member of the team who will help determine the most appropriate support option(s) to address your concerns.
What is the difference between short-term and long-term counselling?
The Student Counselling Service utilises a brief therapy model to help students attend to or effectively manage a specific concern. In order to decide what type of support feels right for you, it is important to think about what the main differences are between short-term counselling and longer-term or open-ended counselling. If you decide longer-term counselling is more likely to benefit you, here is a list of some external resources that are able to offer open-ended counselling.
Short Term Counselling
Long Term Counselling
What other types of support are available if counselling is not right for me?
If you’re struggling with academic stress, you might also find it helpful to:
- Speak with your departmental Wellbeing Adviser, who is there to offer confidential pastoral support and assist you in managing academic concerns, such as mitigating circumstances.
- Speak with your personal tutor or your senior tutor, who are there to offer advice regarding academic matters and guide and support you in handling individual student problems or queries in your department.
- Attend one of our ‘Procrastination to Productivity’ workshops, delivered termly, to explore reasons you may be struggling to get started with your work and practical tools to help you manage your time.
- Attend one of our ‘Stress Less for Exam Success’ workshops, delivered in November, May, and July before exam periods begin.
- Attend a PhD Reflection Group with the Imperial College Chaplaincy
- Apply for mitigating circumstances if needed
- Attend one of the Library’s Study Skills Workshops
- Speak with an Advice caseworker from the Imperial College Union who provide guidance on university regulations, appeals, mitigating circumstances, academic misconduct, fitness to practice, fitness to study, disciplinaries and issues with your supervisor Academic Issues | Imperial College Union
If you need support with difficulties related to finances or accommodation, you might find it helpful to:
If you’re experiencing bullying, harassment, discrimination or sexual misconduct:
- Speak with someone from the Imperial College Union
- Report it to Report + Support - Imperial College London
- Speak with a sexual violence liaison officer (SVLO)
For general support:
- Try our online self-directed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy modules called Silver Cloud, with specific modules on a range of topics such as stress, anxiety, panic, low mood, or body image.
- Check out our Kind Mind video series, with short episodes on topics such as managing stress, resilience and trauma, settling into university, staying connected, mindfulness, getting good sleep and gratitude.
- Attend one of our psychoeducational workshops, courses, or webinars
- If you feel you may benefit from longer-term therapy rather than counselling, see our list external resources
- Speak with your GP
How do I register for counselling?
To arrange an appointment you will need to register with the service through our webpage. You will need to use your College login details. We use a standalone system and any information you provide is confidential to our Service.
Further questions you may have
We offer a confidential space where you can talk about issues you feel troubled by. Hence we will not usually pass on personal information about you to anybody outside the Service, unless you have given us permission to do so. Further information is given in the Student Counselling and Mental Health Advice Service Privacy Notice below. A printed copy is available from Reception.
You can talk with your counsellor about this at your therapeutic consultation if you have any questions.
STUDENT COUNSELLING AND MENTAL HEALTH ADVICE SERVICE PRIVACY NOTICE
What is the purpose of this document?
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (the “College” or “Imperial”) is committed to protecting the privacy and security of your personal information.
This privacy notice describes how we collect and use personal information about you during and after your relationship with us, in accordance with the applicable data protection legislation (the Data Protection Act 1998 until 24 May 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulations (the “GDPR”) from 25 May 2018 and the College’s Data Protection Policy.
The College is a "data controller". This means that we are responsible for deciding how we hold and use personal information about you. We are required under data protection legislation to notify you of the information contained in this privacy notice.
This notice applies to all Imperial College students registered with the Student Counselling and Mental Health Advice Service. This notice does not form part of any contract of employment or other contract to provide services. We may update this notice at any time.
It is important that you read this notice, together with any other privacy notice we may provide on specific occasions when we are collecting or processing personal information about you, so that you are aware of how and why we are using such information.
Data protection principles
We will comply with data protection law. This says that the personal information we hold about you must be:
1. Used lawfully, fairly and in a transparent way.
2. Collected only for valid purposes that we have clearly explained to you and not used in any way that is incompatible with those purposes.
3. Relevant to the purposes we have told you about and limited only to those purposes.
4. Accurate and kept up to date.
5. Kept only as long as necessary for the purposes we have told you about.
6. Kept securely.
The kind of information we hold about you
Personal data, or personal information, means any information about an individual from which that person can be identified. It does not include data where the identity has been removed (anonymous data).
There are "special categories" of more sensitive personal data which require a higher level of protection.
We collect, store, and use the following categories of personal information about you:
Personal contact details such as name, title, addresses, telephone numbers, and personal email addresses.
Date of birth.
Who you have given us permission to communicate with
Location of attendance with the service
Personal information that you have provided us with
The name of your doctor
Medication you are taking
Your year of study
Your level of study
Your presenting and emerging issues
The date you first contacted us
Dates of appointments
Who referred you to the service
Who we suggested you contact
Brief themes of content of sessions as pseudonymised data
With whom we have communicated with in the service of your care
We may also collect, store and use the following "special categories" of more sensitive personal information:
Information about your race or ethnicity, sexual orientation
Information about your health, including any medical condition, health and sickness records.
Information about criminal convictions and offences.
Information provided to us by those who refer you to the service
Your feedback about your experience of the service.
How is your personal information collected?
We collect most of the personal information about you in person at the Student Counselling and Mental Health Advice Service in the course of providing services to you or after we have provided services to you. We will also collect personal information from those who have referred you to the service. From August 2018 we will be using Titanium Schedule (Ti) as an electronic client record system. This programme is in line with security measures as laid down by the University’s ICT department. You may also provide some personal information through this programme.
How we will use information about you and the legal basis for processing your data under the GDPR
We will only use your personal information when the law allows us to. Most commonly, we will use your personal information in the following circumstances:
1. Where we need to perform the contract we have entered into with you or in order to take steps at your request prior to the entry into a contract.
2. Where we need to comply with a legal obligation.
3. Where it is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in us.
4. Where it is necessary for our legitimate interests (or those of a third party) and your interests and fundamental rights do not override those interests.
5. Where it is necessary in order to protect your vital interests or someone else’s vital interests.
6. Where you have consented to the processing.
Situations in which we will use your personal information
We need all the categories of information in the list above primarily to provide our service to you. The situations in which we will process your personal information are listed below.
To provide you with the services that you request from us
To contact you in relation to your contact with the service
To help us plan services for Imperial College students in the future
To ensure we meet any and all legal obligations with regards to the service we provide to you
account for our decisions and investigate complaints
To comply with British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy guidelines
To assess the use and effectiveness of the Student Counselling and Mental health Advice Service
To ensure the information we hold about you is up to date and accurate
Some of the above grounds for processing will overlap and there may be several grounds which justify our use of your personal information.
If you fail to provide personal information
If you fail to provide certain information when requested, we may be unable to provide our service to you.
Change of purpose
We will only use your personal information for the purposes for which we collected it, unless we reasonably consider that we need to use it for another reason and that reason is compatible with the original purpose. If we need to use your personal information for an unrelated purpose, we will notify you and we will explain the legal basis which allows us to do so.
Please note that we may process your personal information without your knowledge or consent, in compliance with the above rules, where this is required or permitted by law.
How we use particularly sensitive personal information
"Special categories" of particularly sensitive personal information require higher levels of protection. We need to have further justification for collecting, storing and using this type of personal information. We may process special categories of personal information in the following circumstances:
1. In limited circumstances, with your explicit written consent.
2. Where it is necessary in the context of employment law, or laws relating to social security and social protection.
3. Where the processing is necessary to protect your vital interests (or those of another person) where you are incapable of giving consent.
4. Where the processing is carried out in the course of our legitimate activities as a charity, with respect to our own members, former members, or persons with whom we have regular contact in connection with our purposes.
5. Where the processing relates to personal data which have been manifestly made public by you.
6. Where the processing is necessary for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims, or for courts acting in their judicial capacity.
7. Where the processing is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest, and occurs on the basis of a law that is, inter alia, proportionate to the aim pursued and protects your rights as a data subject.
8. Where the processing is required for the purpose of medical treatment undertaken by health professionals, including assessing the working capacity of employees and the management of health or social care systems and services.
9. Where the processing is necessary for reasons of public interest in the area of public health (e.g. ensuring the safety of medicinal products).
10. Where the processing is necessary for archiving purposes in the public interest, for historical, scientific, research or statistical purposes, subject to appropriate safeguards.
We will use your particularly sensitive personal information in the following ways:
To assess the impact and effectiveness of our service to you.
To assess the impact and effectiveness of our service to students at Imperial College London.
To monitor student need and trends of those attending the Student Counselling and Mental Health Service in order to improve what we offer
To create a department annual report using pseudonymised data
You will not be subject to decisions that will have a significant impact on you based solely on automated decision-making, unless we have a lawful basis for doing so and we have notified you.
We do not envisage that any decisions will be taken about you using automated means, however we will notify you in writing if this position changes.
Under usual circumstances we do not share your personal data with a third party except when identity has been removed (anonymised data). We need to share anonymised data with third-party service providers and with other entities in College.
We require third parties to respect the security of the data and to treat it in accordance with the law.
Why might you share my personal information with third parties?
We may share your personal information with third parties where required by law, where it is necessary to administer the relationship with you or where we have another legitimate interest in doing so. In the Student Counselling and Mental Health Advice Service this will be:
Where we have the express consent of the student to disclose the information
Where we believe the student or a third party is in significant and serious danger
Where we would be liable to a civil or criminal court procedure if the information was not disclosed
To provide an appropriate service to you
Which third-party service providers process my personal information?
"Third parties" includes third-party service providers (including contractors and designated agents) and other entities within the College group. The following activities are carried out by third-party service providers:
ICT – in order to maintain technology and communications
Titanium Schedule – in order to maintain client record system
SilverCloud – in order to maintain service provision for SilverCloud users
How secure is my information with third-party service providers and other entities in our group?
All our third-party service providers and other entities in the College group are required to take appropriate security measures to protect your personal information in line with our policies. We do not allow our third-party service providers to use your personal data for their own purposes. We only permit them to process your personal data for specified purposes and in accordance with our instructions.
What about other third parties?
We may share your personal information with other third parties, for example in the context of the possible sale or restructuring of the business and operations of the College. We may also need to share your personal information with a regulator or to otherwise comply with the law.
We have put in place measures to protect the security of your information
Third parties will only process your personal information on our instructions and where they have agreed to treat the information confidentially and to keep it secure.
We have put in place appropriate security measures to prevent your personal information from being accidentally lost, used or accessed in an unauthorised way, altered or disclosed. In addition, we limit access to your personal information to those employees, and other third parties who have a business need to know. They will only process your personal information on our instructions and they are subject to a duty of confidentiality.
We have put in place procedures to deal with any suspected data security breach and will notify you and any applicable regulator of a suspected breach where we are legally required to do so.
How long will you use my information for?
We will only retain your personal information for as long as necessary to fulfil the purposes we collected it for, including for the purposes of satisfying any legal, accounting, or reporting requirements. Details of retention periods for different records the College holds are available in our retention policy which is available on this website: http://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/administration-and-support-services/records-and-archives/public/Retention-Schedule-version-2010.pdf . To determine the appropriate retention period for personal data, we consider the amount, nature, and sensitivity of the personal data, the potential risk of harm from unauthorised use or disclosure of your personal data, the purposes for which we process your personal data and whether we can achieve those purposes through other means, and the applicable legal requirements.
In the Student Counselling and Mental Health Advice Service we retain your records for a period of six years in addition to the academic year you were last seen in the Service.
In some circumstances we may anonymise your personal information so that it can no longer be associated with you, in which case we may use such information without further notice to you.
Rights of access, correction, erasure, and restriction
Your duty to inform us of changes
It is important that the personal information we hold about you is accurate and current. Please keep us informed if your personal information changes during your relationship with us.
Your rights in connection with personal information
Under certain circumstances, by law you have the right to:
Request access to your personal information (commonly known as a "data subject access request"). This enables you to receive a copy of the personal information we hold about you and to check that we are lawfully processing it.
Request correction of the personal information that we hold about you. This enables you to have any incomplete or inaccurate information we hold about you corrected.
Request erasure of your personal information. This enables you to ask us to delete or remove personal information where there is no good reason for us continuing to process it. You also have the right to ask us to delete or remove your personal information where you have exercised your right to object to processing (see below).
Object to processing of your personal information where we are relying on a legitimate interest (or those of a third party) and there is something about your particular situation which makes you want to object to processing on this ground. You also have the right to object where we are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes.
Request the restriction of processing of your personal information. This enables you to ask us to suspend the processing of personal information about you, for example if you want us to establish its accuracy or the reason for processing it.
Request the transfer of your personal information to another party.
If you want to review, verify, correct or request erasure of your personal information, object to the processing of your personal data, or request that we transfer a copy of your personal information to another party, please contact the College’s Data Protection Officer in writing.
To maintain your confidentiality within Imperial College you may also contact the Head of Student Counselling and Mental Health Advice service regarding personal data kept within this service only.
No fee usually required
You will not have to pay a fee to access your personal information (or to exercise any of the other rights). However, we may charge a reasonable fee if your request for access is clearly unfounded or excessive. Alternatively, we may refuse to comply with the request in such circumstances.
What we may need from you
We may need to request specific information from you to help us confirm your identity and ensure your right to access the information (or to exercise any of your other rights). This is another appropriate security measure to ensure that personal information is not disclosed to any person who has no right to receive it.
Right to withdraw consent
In the limited circumstances where you may have provided your consent to the collection, processing and transfer of your personal information for a specific purpose, you have the right to withdraw your consent for that specific processing at any time. To withdraw your consent, please contact the College’s Data Protection Officer and the Head of Student Counselling and Mental Health Advice Service. Once we have received notification that you have withdrawn your consent, we will no longer process your information for the purpose or purposes you originally agreed to, unless we have another legitimate basis for doing so in law.
Data Protection Officer
We have appointed a Data Protection Officer to oversee compliance with this privacy notice. If you have any questions about this privacy notice or how we handle your personal information, please contact the Data Protection Officer at:
Imperial College London
Data Protection Officer
Faculty Building Level 4
London SW7 2AZ
You have the right to make a complaint at any time to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the UK supervisory authority for data protection issues.
Changes to this privacy notice
We reserve the right to update this privacy notice at any time, and we will provide you with a new privacy notice when we make any substantial updates. We may also notify you in other ways from time to time about the processing of your personal information.
After you’ve registered for counselling
Once you have registered with us you will be offered an initial conversation with a counsellor where you can talk about your difficulties and discuss whether counselling might be helpful. This may also be a starting point to another source of help if that is more appropriate. To ensure you are seen as quickly as possible we ask you to let us know the times you are available so we can offer you an appointment that fits around your schedule. The greater flexibility you have in when you are able to attend the more likely it is that you will have an earlier appointment. We do request that you give us as much notice as possible if you are unable to attend your appointment. This is to enable us to offer the time to another student who is waiting for an appointment.
Your initial conversation - what to expect
Initial conversations last approximately 30 minutes, and we aim to offer you this as soon as we are able following your registration. Following the initial conversation, you and your counsellor will decide the most supportive options for you.
During the appointment, you will have the opportunity to talk with a counsellor about your concerns, to think together about what you might need, and decide about what help might be most useful to you. This may or may not be continuing into counselling. You will be able to think with your counsellor if there are any other relevant support within or outside of Imperial College, which could be helpful to you.
Some of the possible recommendations following your initial conversation are:
- Brief-counselling with our Service (up to 5 sessions)
- Longer-term or open-ended therapy with an external service
- Making an appointment with your GP
- Other external, specialised services
- Internal support from another department, such as your personal or senior tutor, your departmental wellbeing adviser, Chaplaincy, the Disability Advisory Service, the SU Advice Centre, etc.
- A psychoeducational workshop or webinar on exam stress, procrastination, sleep difficulties, mindfulness, or self-compassion
- A 4-week course on either improving low mood or stress reduction
- A 6-week Compassion Focused Therapy group
- Silver Cloud – online self-directed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy modules on a range of topics such as stress, anxiety, panic, low mood, or body image
- Other self-directed support, such as our Kind Mind video series or written self-help guides
Following this meeting, if you and your counsellor agree that counselling with the Service is the best way forward for you, we will offer you an appointment as soon as a counsellor has space available at the time you have let them know you are available to attend.
Preparing for your appointment
Before you attend for your initial conversation, it may be helpful to reflect on the following questions to help you prepare you for your first session so that you get the most out of your appointment.
- What brings me to counselling?
- If I were to have counselling sessions, what would I like to get from my sessions, what would I want to be different?
- What have I already tried? If you’re unsure about what might be helpful to try, I would suggest taking a look at some of the Self-Directed Support we’ve put together to give you some ideas, in addition to attending one of our workshops or courses .
- What am I willing to change?
- Is now a good time for me? Why have I decided to come to counselling at this point in my life?
Ongoing Appointments - What to Expect
We aim to offer you a weekly appointment at the same day and time within 4 weeks from when you are first seen. This might be longer at times of particularly high demand. Ongoing counselling appointments are 50 minutes long and you will meet with the same counsellor in the same place each week. Appointments are usually very limited due to a high demand for the service, so it’s important to make sure you’re able to attend all of your sessions in order to help you get the most benefit from them. Your sessions are an investment in yourself and your wellbeing and just like making any other changes, requires commitment and effort.
The Counselling Service offers talking therapy, which is a collaborative process where you and your counsellor talk together about what’s been going on for you in order to help you make sense of our feelings and understand yourself better, help you recognise unhelpful patterns in the way you think or act, and find ways to change them (if you want to). The counsellor will generally not tell you what to do since the process of counselling encourages clients to create their own ways forward, in the supportive environment of the counselling room.
If you are looking for something a bit more directive or don’t feel quite ready to talk to someone, we encourage you to explore some of our Self-Directed Support in addition to attending one of our workshops or courses
While you wait for your ongoing counselling appointments, why not try:
Watch a Kind Mind episode
Explore our online self-directed resources
Speak with your departmental wellbeing adviser
If you need to speak to someone urgently
For the counselling process to be effective, it is important that students attend appointments regularly. We understand that there are times when circumstances or unexpected events will require you to cancel or to not attend a scheduled appointment, so we ask that you give us as much notice as possible so that we can offer this space to another student.
Due to high demand and to keep the service accessible to those who need it, the service adheres to the following cancellation policy:
We can reschedule a maximum of one initial conversation if you let us know at least 48 hours before the appointment. If you wish to reschedule with less than 48 hours notice this will count as a missed appointment, and you will be added back on to the waitlist. If you miss your appointment without letting us know before the session, you will need to re-register with the service at a later time
Ongoing counselling appointments:
We can reschedule a maximum of one missed or cancelled appointment within an academic year. Any subsequent missed or cancelled appointments will need to be counted as a used session. If you cancel or do not attend 3 counselling sessions, or 2 consecutively, your registration with the service will end and your file will be closed. You would be welcome to re-refer for counselling again when you can commit to regular attendance.
Compassion Focused Group Therapy
This 6 week group is specifically designed for students who have strong critical tendencies, self-judgement, comparing to others, perfectionism or low self-esteem and who would like to work on changing these tendencies with a compassion focused approach. The course is based on Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) an evidence-based approach developed by Professor Paul Gilbert.
The course will explore the concept of the compassionate self: self-compassion, compassion from others and compassion to others. The group introduces theory, resources, and techniques from CFT to help develop mindfulness and notice thoughts and behaviours that may be contributing to distress. It provides a space for developing alternative ways of thinking and being that might be more helpful. There will be a large experiential aspect to the group, with plenty of opportunity for discussion and practice in relating the theory of CFT to your own and others’ experiences and is an opportunity to learn new skills in a supportive atmosphere.
This is a weekly 2 hour ‘in person’ therapy group run over 6 consecutive weeks. Attendance is required at every session.
We are currently planning the delivery of our next Compassion Focused Therapy Group and we will announce the dates of the group in due course.