Tsvetina from the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Team reassures and encourages students to utilise the online support available all year round.
People say accessing support is the first big step that you take when you want to cope with a problem and there is no wonder why some of us may find that first step to be the hardest one to take. A lot of students stop themselves from reaching out to Counselling or Wellbeing services because of embarrassment or lack of confidence. You may be one of the many thinking something along the lines of ‘what if somebody I know sees me there?’ or ‘it is so embarrassing to talk about this in person with somebody’, or maybe ‘I don’t know what I am supposed to say or do when I go to see a counsellor.’
It is not uncommon to be stuck between University, work and other commitments that make it impossible for you to find the time to go to Student Support as well. You may have some caring commitments that don’t allow for taking this time or perhaps you travel every day to come to University which makes scheduling even harder.
Since we are using the internet to communicate with our friends and family no matter the distance and time zones, why can’t we do the same when seeking support? We already trust online banking, social media platforms and online data storage websites that keep our confidential data and save us time and resources. With the abundance of online services, mobile devices and computers, it would be a shame not be able to use these commodities for our personal wellbeing. Fortunately, online support does exist and is available all year round thanks to the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing division.
What is online support?
Online support aims to provide support to students in the same way as the regular Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service while utilising different technological means. We want to be as flexible as possible and so our service offers support through email, webcam and instant messaging. The student experience varies depending on the type of communication they have chosen and sometimes multiple approaches can be used to address an issue most effectively.
Who is online support for?
Online support may be suitable for you if you are having difficulties attending appointments in person because of:
- Being away from Cardiff for a placement or studying abroad
- Caring commitments
- Disability or illness that prevent you from attending in person
- Mental health stigma related to your nationality, gender or culture
- Embarrassment or social anxiety
- Tight schedule because of course or work commitments
How does it work?
If you want an email Counselling or Wellbeing session, it can be conducted through your University account. Email gives you the flexibility to choose to write to your counsellor at a time that is convenient to you, knowing that you will receive a reply on a prearranged day.
If you prefer a synchronous instant messaging or webcam session, that will be via Blackboard IM, which can be downloaded in advance through Learning Central. It is a pretty straightforward installation process and there are some instructions available to download on our intranet pages.
Some guidelines on Email Counselling and Blackboard IM Counselling are available in the ‘Downloads’ section on our intranet online appointments site. There you can find more information on what to expect from your counsellor and the online session, how your privacy would be addressed and the information regarding confidentiality that you may want to know before starting.
Applying for online support
You can apply for online support using the same self-referral form as you would for Counselling and Wellbeing – there is a section on the form that allows you to state that you prefer an online appointment. Once you have requested an online appointment, your referral form will be reviewed and you will be advised on what is the best approach for you.
Why should I give it a try?
Writing an email can give you time to reflect, and consider what you want to say, and how you say it. Getting the right message across when writing an email or an instant message can feel different than talking, but it does allow you to be creative in expressing your thoughts and emotions. You can send videos, music, drawings or even poems to your counsellor using these platforms. They also give you the freedom to discuss sensitive topics that you may find uncomfortable discussing in person.
Most importantly, writing involves structuring what you are experiencing or thinking of in sentences, which can be really beneficial in itself. Writing about your problems is therapeutic in itself and it gives you this extra time to think through each and every word you use, which can give you a different perspective on things. It can also help you see the progress you are making, as you read back through previous sessions, or remind you how to carry out a strategy or technique that your counsellor has suggested!
When it comes to using a webcam, this can be almost the same as meeting with your counsellor in person. Plus, it gives you the advantage of staying in the comfort of your house while having a session!
What if I don’t like it?
If you think that the online support you are receiving is not helpful, you can always discuss this with your counsellor who will be happy to direct you to a different approach that may suit your needs better.
Available support anywhere, anytime
Even if you decide that online support may not be the best option for you at that moment, it is always good to know that you can access it at any time or place. Solely having it as an alternative can help your anxieties when going on a year abroad or starting a job whilst at University.
Imagine having a friendly, non-judgemental and supportive individual that can be there for you even if you can’t meet in person? Now imagine being able to communicate with this person in the same way as you would with your best friend – not only by meeting up to talk but also using IM to keep in touch and gain support. By introducing this service to students, we hope to do exactly this – to give them flexibility and unconditional support when they need it.
Contacting Counselling Health & Wellbeing
If you are experiencing any kind of emotional distress, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us, we offer support to anybody experiencing any sort of difficulty, however big or small.
Bookable appointments are available via our online referral questionnaire, in which our friendly, approachable staff can offer you non-judgemental support in a safe and confidential space. We also offer a daily Wellbeing Walk-In Service Monday–Friday 3 – 3.45pm and Wednesday mornings 9.30 – 10.15am at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place. We also hold a walk-in services at Student Support Centre in the Heath on Wednesday afternoons 3 – 3.45pm.
Watch our video and see for yourself that we have friendly and approachable staff. Staff who are able to listen to you non-judgmentally, in a safe and confidential space.
If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website to view all of your GP options.
Your feedback and help please
Have you found this blog post useful? Please help us by commenting in the comments bar below, and if there is anything further you’d like to know ask your questions there too.
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Tsvetina, Placement Student.
Your Student Life, Supported.
The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including: Advice and Money, Careers and Employability, Counselling, Health and Wellbeing, Disability and Dyslexia and International Student Support. The Student Support Centres are located at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus and Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus.
For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.