Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost?
It's Free! Counselling, workshops and group sessions are available free of charge to all registered students.
What should I expect from the first session?
- You can expect to do most of the talking.
- Your counsellor will probably ask brief, clarifying questions and make interpretive comments.
- They may also ask typical assessment questions about your symptoms, medications(s), past counselling, or drug and alcohol use.
- The counsellor will evaluate your situation, help you establish specific goals, and identify possible strategies for making change.
What will my counsellor expect from me?
- It is up to you to determine what you want out of the counselling experience.
- You need to be an active participant, honest about yourself and ready to fully participate in the sessions.
- It is expected that you will work collaboratively with your counsellor to establish goals and tasks for therapy, and that you be willing to work towards those goals by completing mutually agreed upon tasks.
- You cannot attend sessions while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If it becomes apparent that your judgment is impacted by drugs or alcohol, your counsellor may end the current session and ask you to come back.
Who will I see?
- All our counsellors are highly experienced and well-trained generalists who are committed to their own professional development. You may see a Registered Psychologist, a Provisional Psychologist, a Clinical Social Worker, or a Graduate Practicum Counsellor. We are a teaching facility, and our Graduate Practicum Counsellors are supervised by another counsellor on staff.
Am I required to go to counselling?
- No. Our approach to counselling is collaborative and unless there is an immediate safety concern, we do not see mandated clients.
What techniques will my counsellor use?
- Our counsellors use many different types of therapies. We have training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Process-orientated therapy, Solution Focused therapy (SFT), Feminist Therapy, EMDR, Positive Psychology and Mindfulness based approaches.
- Your counsellor may suggest a variety of techniques, some of which may seem strange to you. If you have any questions or don't feel comfortable practicing certain exercises such as certain relaxation techniques, it’s important that you tell your counsellor. You have the right to stop any exercise at any time during any session.
How should I feel after a session?
- Although your counsellor will be supportive, they also should challenge you. As you begin to process new ways of thinking you may feel annoyed, tired or upset. Other times you may leave a session feeling much lighter. Change can be difficult in the short-term, but it's usually positive in the long-term. If you have any concerns please talk to your counsellor.
How long is a session?
- The length of individual sessions and the duration of counselling depend largely on your specific needs, but generally last for 45‐50 minutes.
How long will I need to be in counselling?
- We offer short-term counselling, averaging between 3-10 sessions. Your counsellor can help assess the amount of support you need.
- Individual sessions are usually scheduled once every week, or once every two weeks but you and your counsellor may decide to meet more or less frequently depending on your individual needs.
- If long-term counselling is required, we can refer you to an outside agency. For more information please see our Community Resources page.
What if I know my counsellor personally?
As a professional, your counsellor is part of an association that has rules about the types of interactions they are allowed to have with clients. A counsellor cannot
- Be your therapist if they are related to you or if they are your friend
- Be your supervisor, teacher, or evaluator while engaged in counselling with you
- Have any kind of romantic or sexual relationship with a former or current client, or with any people close to a client
- Have any other kind of business relationship with you besides the therapy itself
- Give or receive gifts from clients except tokens with personal meaning to the therapy process
What if I don’t like my counsellor?
It's important to feel safe with your counsellor so if you realize you're not comfortable with your counsellor, or aren't getting what you need from the counselling process, you have a right to request a referral. Ideally you will be able to talk to your counsellor about what would be a better fit and they can transfer your file to another counsellor who may be a better fit for you.
Likewise, your counsellor has a right to feel safe in their work and can ask that your care be transferred. This can occur if the counsellor believes their personal values, experiences or reactions will interfere with their ability to provide you with the best care possible.
If you have serious concerns about your counselling and believe that your counsellor will be unwilling to listen and respond, or that they have behaved unethically, you can contact Barbara Williams, the Coordinator of Counselling Services at (403) 317 2845 to discuss your concerns. We take criticisms and suggestions seriously and will try to respond with care and respect.
What if I see my counsellor on campus?
- Because your counsellor is concerned about protecting your confidentiality, they will not approach you if they see you in the hallway or in the community. This practice is meant to protect your confidentiality.
Is it Confidential?
- As professional counsellors, we are bound by strict rules of confidentiality. As a result, we rarely provide detailed information about a student’s situation and cannot confirm if they are a client with our office.
- We cannot speak to your friends, parents, teachers etc. without your permission. If you would like us to share information with other people, such as an academic advisor or doctor, you must give us written permission.
- You have the right to change your mind and revoke that permission at any time.
When is it not Confidential?
Your counsellor is legally bound to break confidentiality if they believe:
- You are in imminent danger of harming yourself
- You will harm another person
- A child is being abused, neglected or is a witness of abuse
- A dependent adult is being harmed or abused
- If your record is subpoenaed
What if you need to contact me?
During your first visit you will complete our intake form. On that form you can indicate if it's okay for our office to contact you via phone or email. If it is, we may contact you in these ways.
- Phone - If our receptionist is phoning you, the number will come up as blocked on your phone. If your counsellor is contacting you from their direct line, their name and extension number may appear on your phone.
- Email - Please be aware that email is not completely confidential. Any email received or sent to your counsellor will be printed out and kept in your file.
What is a Release of Information Form?
By signing this form you are authorizing Counselling Services to release information about you or your situation to a specific recipient.
- To another agency for referral purposes
- To your counsellor to enable them to discuss your situation with another individual or agency
Note: Others may not be bound by the same confidentiality rules as U of L Counselling Services. If you have any concerns about the nature of information being shared please discuss it with your counsellor. You have a right to see any letters written by your counsellor before they are shared with other agencies or departments.
What is contained in my file?
- Intake and Consent to Counselling forms
- Copy of your transcripts
- Case notes
- Copy of any letters written on your behalf
- (If a returning client) Previous case file
- (If signed) Consent for release of information
Will I have access to my file?
- You have full access to your file and may request it at any time.
- You may request that your counsellor copy the case notes as counselling proceeds, so you can keep your own file.
Does any of my information go on my academic record?
- No. Files are protected and we cannot speak to other people or departments without your written permission.
- Limits to this confidentiality exist should an immediate, high risk of harm to yourself or others arise.
Who has Access to My Information?
- At Counselling Services, we utilize an on-line calendar. This means that the receptionist and the other counsellors employed by Counselling Services may see your first name, last initial and ID number in the calendar. If you would prefer, ask that your initials are entered only.
- Although the calendar is password protected, there is a risk that third parties may see your first name and last initial in the system.
- If a court subpoenas a copy of the calendar, a third party may also see those details.
How is my Information Stored?
- We keep files in locked cabinets in an alarmed area. We use a shared filing system which means that our receptionist and other on-site counsellors have access to where your files are stored.
How Long do you Keep My Information?
- A file is officially closed when you and/or the counsellor agree you don't need to attend sessions anymore
- If, following initial contact with us, we have not heard from you for a period of 30 days
- Files are shredded after 10 years
What is a Letter of Support?
Sometimes students experience extreme extenuating circumstances which are beyond their control and impact academic performance. In these situations, your professor or advisor may refer you to Counselling for a "letter of support" for accommodations due to a personal problem.
The counsellor's role in this process is to work with the student to:
- Explore and assess the student’s personal and academic situation
- Explore all options available to the student
- Decide if they deem that the student’s request for a letter of support warrants consideration.
If the counsellor agrees to write a letter of support, the student will need to complete a release of information form, allowing your counsellor to write the letter. It is the responsibility of the student to meet with their advisor or the involved faculty member to give them the letter, complete any additional paperwork and to work out the details of the accommodation. The letter in no way guarantees that the student will be granted the accommodation, but simply argues that, in the counsellor’s professional opinion, the request warrants consideration.
To learn more about the various types of academic accommodation please refer to:
University of Lethbridge Calendars ACADEMIC REGULATIONS