What do we offer?
The Student Counselling Service provides brief individual counselling for registered students at the College for any personal issue/s that may be affecting your wellbeing. These might include academic problems, low mood, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, loneliness, bereavement, issues around sexuality, self-esteem or self-harm. We also offer some Life Skills workshops and online support groups. The service is free, and is confidential except under exceptional circumstances. For more information about confidentiality please see our Privacy Notice .
When 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 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.
Initial conversations are 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.
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.
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.
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.
If it is agreed that further counselling within the service would be most helpful for you, we will ask for your availability in the coming weeks. We understand that being a student at Imperial College is likely to mean having a full diary, which can largely be out of your control. We will do our absolute best to be flexible around your needs. We also ask that you be as flexible as possible regarding the days and times in which you can be seen. If you have limited availability as to when you can be seen, it is likely that you will need to wait longer for counselling to begin.
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. Typically we will offer you a further four consecutive meetings.
Cancellations / Missed Appointments
In order to make sure that students are seen as quickly as possible, it is important that we prevent unused appointments.
We understand that there are times when circumstances or unexpected events will require you to cancel or to not attend a scheduled appointment. We ask that you do your best to give us one week’s notice so that we can offer this space to another student. Due to the demand for our service, 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 are unable to attend more than two appointments, and we have not heard from you, we will understand that you no longer wish to attend counselling and will need to offer the space to another student.
Early or Late Arrivals
Please note that we do not have a waiting room. As such, we kindly ask that you arrive at your counsellor’s room directly at the time of your appointment. In the event that you are going to be late, we would be grateful for you to let us know. We are unable to extend the length of the appointment, so please do your best to attend on time so that you can have the full session time
What do we offer?
We can offer email counselling for students who are unable to attend the service in person. Please register with the service in the usual way through How To contact us and let us know you would like email counselling. It may be that you will need to meet with a counsellor in the first instance and decide with them if email counselling is appropriate support for you.
What Is Email Counselling?
Email counselling is similar to face to face counselling except that it uses email to communicate. So instead of meeting with your counsellor once a week, you will exchange a weekly email. It is a space for you think about any personal issues that are troubling you. The process of writing down your thoughts and feelings enables you to reflect on them, and for your counsellor to also add their reflections. It might identify choices you are currently making, and any changes that might be helpful for you. As it is time-limited work, it is good to find a focus in your first email exchange with your counsellor, to make the most of the time.
Not all our counsellors offer email counselling and those that do have completed specific training to enable them to work online.
Who Is It for?
Email counselling is for students who find it difficult to attend face to face sessions. Some of the reasons might be:
- You are on placement, either here or abroad
- You may have a disability or be in a situation where it is not possible to attend the service in person
It is important to note that email counselling is not suitable for all students, despite the above circumstances. If you are having suicidal thoughts and feelings or have a history of serious mental health difficulties, then we would advise you to contact us for a face to face meeting in the first instance. Email counselling may still be an option for you following this meeting. We would also advise that you meet with your doctor. The Samaritans can be contacted on free phone 116 123.
What does the service offer?
We will initially offer you up to four email exchanges, with the option to extend to a further four by mutual agreement. You will be given an ‘appointment time’; this is when your counsellor will respond to your email. You will need to send your email at least 48 hours in advance of the appointment time, but this means you can write the email at any time before this.
What makes email counselling useful?
Working in this medium means that you are writing things down, and some people find this very helpful. It gives you time to think through what you are trying to say, as well as reflect on your own words. You might find this enables you to be much more open about your feelings.
You can write your email in a time frame to suit you. You can also read the counsellor’s response at a convenient time. This can be useful if your timetable is not regular or you are away from College. We do recommend that writing and reading your documents are done in private space.
When might it not be useful?
There are no visual clues when working online and you may find it hard not to see the counsellor’s responses face to face. Without physical or verbal cues, misunderstandings can occur, so it is important that you express this to your counsellor and seek clarification about any confusions or queries you might have.
Whilst it can be easier to say things in a written form that you couldn’t say face to face, it is important that you read through what you have written before you send it, to be sure you are comfortable with what you are disclosing.
Although the same confidentiality applies as with working face to face, it is important to note that absolute confidentiality of written material cannot be guaranteed (see below for Security) although both counsellor and client will take steps to safeguard. Please note it is not permissible to publicise the content of the email exchanges and documents, or share them with a third party.
We have been advised by ICT that using your Imperial email address is important in terms of encryption. However this does not guarantee absolute security. We will take every reasonable step to ensure security, but email is not a 100% secure system so please be aware of this as you write your exchanges and in your decision to access counselling via email.
We would recommend you use a personal computer. If you are using a public computer you will need to ensure that you delete any documents you write. Also ensure that the computer has up-to-date virus software. Please do not use people’s names, or write any material that might identify a third person in your documents.
How does it work/How to Register
Firstly we will ask you to register with us, letting us know that you would like to be considered for email counselling. We will send you our Registration Form, a CORE OM questionnaire to complete, and our Email Counselling Policy Document.
You will then need to:
- Download and read the Email Counselling Policy Document. This will give you information on how email counselling works
- Then you need to complete a Registration Form and the CORE OM questionnaire. The documents will need to be password protected before you return them to us. You will need to send us a password by separate email. This will remain your password for any further exchanges.
The information you give will enable us to assess if you are suitable to continue with email counselling. We will let you know within 7 working days of receiving your form if we think that you are suitable for email counselling, or suggesting alternatives for you if not. If it is thought that email counselling would be helpful for you, we will place your name on our waiting list. As soon as a counsellor is available to offer email counselling, they will contact you directly to begin and arrange the times of your communications.
You will write a weekly message to your counsellor in a password protected Word document and send it to your counsellor at an agreed time and day. You can send your document at any time during the week but it does need to arrive 48 hours before your counsellor is scheduled to respond. We suggest you commit an hour to writing it. Whilst the length is up to you, two sides of A4 is a good guide, as your counsellor will only have one hour to both read and respond to it.
Sometimes circumstances or events beyond your control may adversely affect your ability to perform to your full potential in your academic work. It is important for you to speak with your department as soon as possible for them to advise you on the procedure for applying for mitigating circumstances if this is appropriate. The Student Counselling Service does not usually supply documentation for mitigating circumstances unless a student is in ongoing counselling. With a student's permission, we are able to provide a notification of attendance at the Student Counselling Service.
Please note that during our busiest periods, there may be a wait before we can offer you an initial appointment or before we can offer you a regular time for on-going counselling. The more flexible you can be in terms of availability, the sooner an appointment is likely to be available for you.
Consultation for staff
As well as providing counselling for students, the counsellors also offer consultation to staff whose role involves them with students. Staff can contact the Service to discuss student-related issues, eg sometimes a student will decline a staff member's suggestion to contact the Student Counselling Service. In such a situation, the staff member can contact the Service to discuss their concerns. You would not need to give us the student's name. We may not be able to tell you exactly what to do; however, it could be useful to talk through options for a course of action.
The counsellors will not discuss any client of the Service without that client's express permission, and we would not be able to acknowledge if a student was coming to counselling unless we had that student's express permission. However, with a student's permission it might be possible for a counsellor to talk briefly with a member of staff involved with that student, eg to confirm that they are attending counselling to talk about specific personal issues which they experience as having a significant negative impact on their ability to study.
Developed by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, a new e-learning package is designed to give non-specialist staff the skills, knowledge and confidence to offer a first line of support to students who may have mental health issues can be found at http://learning.cwmt.org.uk/
Information about how to support students Health and Wellbeing can be found in the Personal Tutors guide found at http://www.imperial.ac.uk/personal-tutors-guide/supporting-students/health-and-wellbeing/
We evaluate and research our work in order to audit and improve what we do. Students will be asked to complete short questionnaires before and after counselling. All data collected will preserve the anonymity and confidentiality of our clients.
We will be using the CORE (Clinical Outcome in Routine Evaluation) system as a standard evaluation tool. The function of the system is two-fold. The first is to measure student current wellbeing, ability to function, and monitor symptoms and risk. This can help us provide the best service for our students. The second is research based where it will enable us to increase our understanding of the problems that students present with, the problems that are most effectively helped by counselling, enabling us to improve what we offer.
Completing this questionnaire is important to the work we do with you and will help us monitor the effectiveness of what we offer. We would like to emphasise that participation is voluntary and declining to complete the questionnaire will not affect entitlement to counselling.