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Terms and Conditions of Service: UL Éist

Student Counselling Service Information Sheet for Students

What is the UL Counselling Service?

The UL Counselling Service is a primary care mental health service which offers a stepped-care model of service delivery. In a system with limited resources, the stepped-care model is ideal for reaching the greatest number of people possible and employing the least intensive yet effective intervention.

The UL Counselling Service is a professional psychological service available to students to assist them on their progress through university life, with all of its incumbent stresses and strains. Many personal decisions are made and problems solved through discussions with friends or family, advisor, course director, nurse, GP or chaplain. However, there are times when it may be right to seek help away from the familiar daily environment. The Counselling Service was set up at UL in 1977 to meet just such a need. The service works within the Code of Ethics and Practice of the Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland (PCHEI), formerly the Irish Association of University and College Counsellors (IAUCC).

Who is the service for?

The service is available to all undergraduate and postgraduate students of UL. Approximately 1,200 students avail of the service annually.

What sort of problems can be helped with counselling?

Most personal, relationship or identity problems can be helped through counselling. This includes anxiety, stress and depression, family and/or relationship difficulties, sexual problems, and identity issues. It also includes talking over adjusting to a new culture and dealing with dilemmas or difficult decisions, as well as more specific problems, such as addictions or eating disorders.

Counselling aims to address all problems of psychological survival and coping, whether seemingly major or minor. Students frequently say that they didn't think their problem was serious enough for counselling and that they didn't want to be wasting the counsellor’s time. Talking to somebody at this stage, before things escalate, is often the best course of action and is to be encouraged. Don’t wait until a problem has grown very serious – we would much rather you came when something is relatively minor so that it can be resolved more quickly.

Short-term (i.e., four sessions) of cognitive-behaviour support is also offered by the service. This is distinguished from counselling in that it offers very focussed, goal-directed support with specific problems or concerns of the student. For example, students presenting with stress/anxiety/low-mood/specific fears often find that learning key coping skills, grounding techniques, and goal-setting is more helpful to them at this time in their life than talking about their history or wider difficulties.

Who are the team members?

The service has a team of professionally trained and widely experienced psychotherapists, counsellors, a chartered clinical psychologist, chartered psychologist, and three assistant psychologists (APs). The team is used to helping people from many different backgrounds and cultures and with a wide range of personal issues.

The service also includes therapists and psychologists in training as an integral part of the team. Students may be invited to see one of these but are not compelled to do so. Trainees are under the strict supervision of the Head/Deputy Head of Counselling. Therapists and trainees provide the counselling at the service, whilst the Assistant Psychologists run the drop-in service and the cognitive-behavioural support.

What happens in counselling?

Counselling is not the same as giving advice. Rather, a counsellor seeks to help you to focus on and understand more clearly the issues that concern you. By respecting your own values, choices and lifestyle, the counsellor can work with you towards making choices or changes that are right for you.

Counselling is not any one thing but is adapted by the counsellor to fit the needs of the student. Counselling is basically about a relationship with another person who is skilled and has expertise in dealing with the difficulties encountered by students. This relationship is one of support and advice, education and challenge, warmth and empathy. It will normally be on a weekly or fortnightly basis, for up to six sessions. This can be extended by a maximum of a further six session after a review with the Head/Deputy Head of Counselling and if deemed necessary. Each session normally lasts 50 minutes and takes place in a comfortable and private setting.

The first meeting consists of a detailed assessment and evaluation of the situation presented by the student. The counsellor explains about the nature of the work and what the student might expect. Goals and objectives of counselling are established at this point.

Most people are seen individually, but group counselling can also be offered when appropriate and if there is sufficient demand.

Is the service confidential?

The service is confidential and operates within the terms of confidentiality as laid down by the Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland (PCHEI), formerly the Irish Association of University and College Counsellors (IAUCC). This means that your personal details are not disclosed to anyone outside of the service without your expressed permission. However, there are some exceptions in relation to confidentiality. These include:

  • Liaising with key people when there is a threat to your own wellbeing or the wellbeing of someone else, e.g., if you communicate plans of suicide or plans to harm someone else. Examples of such include your Next-of-Kin, ambulance staff, the Gardai, etc. Only the minimum number of people required to ensure your safety will be informed.
  • Meeting legal requirements of the Children’s First policy (2015), psychologists and psychotherapists are mandated by law to report harm to children to the Child and Family Agency (TUSLA). Such harm includes assault, ill-treatment, neglect, or sexual abuse.
  • Occasionally liaising with services/departments at the University of Limerick to verify student information in order to provide our service or assess our service delivery. For example, the Counselling Service may need to compare students who are at risk of dropping out of university against those who actually dropped out. This requires liaising with Student Academic Affairs. Work such as this helps us know if the Counselling Service is providing a useful service to students and the university. Only quantitative information would communicated by such comparisons.

We maintain basic case notes on all students. These are kept in an electronic database which is password and fob protected. We engage in research, evaluations, and audits of our service from time to time. This requires employing unidentifiable, anonymised, aggregate data. Your personal details are not included in such research.

How do I make an appointment?

You can make contact with the counselling service by first coming to the drop-in service. You enter the waiting room at CM073 at the daily drop-in times of 10.00–11.00 and 14.00–15.00. You will be asked to complete an intake form and a self-assessment questionnaire. An Assistant Psychologist will meet with you as part of an exploratory interview for 15 meetings. Here, they will review your details and establish what has brought you to the counselling service.

At this exploratory interview, you and the counsellor can decide on the best way forward. Some find this exploratory session sufficient on its own; others will want ongoing individual or group counselling, or a referral to some other form of help.

The service gets very busy, especially during term, and consequently we often have to operate a waiting list for ongoing counselling. However, every effort will be made to see you as soon as possible.

What if I miss my appointment?

In the event that you are not able to attend for a scheduled appointment, it is your responsibility to notify the service administrator at least 24 hours in advance so that the time slot can be allocated to someone else. Repeated missed appointments without adequate reason will result in counselling being discontinued and your being referred back to the drop-in centre.

Can I ask for a particular counsellor?

You will be allocated an appointment with the first available counsellor. Requests to attend specific counsellors cannot be catered for. Requests to see a counsellor of a particular gender will be considered on merit.

What if more help is needed than the service can provide?

The stepped-care model of the Counselling Service is designed to meet mild-moderate mental health needs. Acute, chronic, and highly complex mental health needs may require referral to a variety of secondary level psychological, therapeutic, specialised, or psychiatric services in the community. If referral seems the best way forward, a team member will discuss the options with you.

All students should be registered with a GP, and it is often helpful if you inform your GP that you are seeing a counsellor at UL. Although rare, occasionally, some HSE services will not accept a referral from the UL Counselling Service. Being registered with a GP outside of the university will overcome this issue should it arise.

Is there an emergency service?

When a genuine emergency arises, we will arrange for you to see a counsellor quickly – we keep daily emergency appointment spaces in the diary – so please do not let the busyness of the service put you off coming, especially when something is urgent. Emergencies will be given priority and will be seen on the day. In the case of medical emergencies, or where your life or the life of another person is at risk, staff at the Counselling Service will send you either to the medical service or call an ambulance or taxi to take you to hospital, depending on your presentation.

How do I give feedback on the service?

As part of this service’s quality control procedures, all students attending the service are asked to complete an evaluation form once counselling has ended. Alternatively, you can supply anonymous feedback online by clicking the following link: https://unioflimerick.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_eE96fyTzxBUJ9CR. 

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