The Counselling Centre

Personal Counselling

What is counselling?
Counselling involves identifying and building personal strengths and resources which can help you address and overcome challenges in your life. Counselling is focused on improving your understanding of yourself and your situation – and then using this insight to develop plans that can address or resolve your difficulties. Counselling is done in person, not by email.

Who can use The Counselling Centre?
All full-time and part-time Saint Mary's students can use our services. Students must be registered and attending classes to use our service. Students from The Langauge Centre are also eligible to use our service. However, if there are language constraints that prevent counselling from being effective, the student could access counselling by calling Morneau Shepell - 1-855-649-8641 for assistance in their first language.

Is there a limit on the number of available sessions?
Some students present with short-term issues while others present with long-term issues so the amount of sessions will be determined by you and your Clinican.

Why do students enter counselling?
Although students come to The Counselling Centre for many reasons, some of the more common issues include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Self esteem
  • Relationship concerns
  • Roommate issues
  • Family conflict
  • Anger
  • Grief / Loss
  • Assertiveness
  • Sexual Assault

Note: While we see students for many issues, issues around addiction are referred to Addiction Prevention & Treatment Services offered by Capital Health at 902-424-8866. Survivors of sexual violence may choose to access the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre by calling 902-422-4240 or visiting their website at www.avaloncentre.ca. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are also available to present at various community hospitals in the case of sexual assaults in the last 5 days. Call 902-425-0122 to speak to a SANE. Our staff are generalists by training. Students seeking assistance with a specialized area can find a Psychologist at www.apns.ca.

Is there a fee for counselling?
No, this is a free service provided by the University.

Are counselling sessions confidential?
Any information you share with staff is kept confidential and is almost never released without your permission. However, there are situations where confidentially may have to be breached. For example, if your Clinician had reason to believe that you were potentially at risk of hurting yourself or another person he or she is required to take steps to prevent this from happening - even if it means breaching confidentiality. Also, if your Clinician is made aware of a situation involving a risk of abuse to a child or another dependent person, he or she is again required to disclose this information. Finally, if there was a subpoena for your files by a court of law, we are legally required to provide this information. Your Clinician will answer any questions about release of information during your 1st session.

How often and for how long will I need counselling/Academic & Life Skills Coaching?
The frequency and duration will depend on the complexity of the issue(s) to be addressed and also, the goals set. Most students who can benefit from ongoing appointments attend every two weeks. The frequency of contact is a decision of your Cllnician. Academic & Life Skills Coaching sessions are also determined by the Intake & Programs Coordinator.

When are appointments available?
Appointments for counselling are normally made from Monday to Friday at 9:00am, 10:15am, 1:00pm and 2:30pm. There is some flexibility with these times.

How long can I expect to wait for my first appointment?
Intake appointments are seen on the day requested (business days).During the regular academic year (September – April) a two to three week wait is normal for counselling and academic & life skills coaching sessions. The waiting period is generally shorter during the summer months. If you are contacting us because of a current crisis (death in the family, etc.), we will make every effort to see you within 24 hours. Please tell Ashleigh, our Secretary, that this is an emergency.

Can I request a certain staff member for personal counselling?
While all staff have areas of interest no staff member specializes in certain areas, you can request a specific person but may have to wait longer depending on their availability.

Will you tell me to take medications or diagnose me?
We can not prescribe or offer advice on medications that is for your doctor to do and we highly recommend contacting Student Health at 902-420-5611 to book an appointment. We suggest that you speak to a physician to discuss any concerns around medications. We also will not diagnose you, and Student Health can assist with that as well.

Do I really need counselling? Shouldn't I be able to handle my problems on my own?
We prefer not to ask whether or not clients "need" counselling, but rather, whether they can benefit from our services. University can be a very emotionally challenging time for many students, but it doesn't have to be. Could you benefit from reducing your stress level? Could you benefit from improving your mood? Would you like more open communication in your relationship? Would you like to increase your self-esteem? Would you like to be more confident? Could you use some support while dealing with a difficult or challenging situation? If so, you may be able to benefit from counselling.

Does The Counselling Centre provide advice on career planning, class selection, or employment?
While these topics do come up in counselling, there are specialized services at Saint Mary's to help you with these topics:

Career Planning

Academic Planning and Course Selection:

Arts: Emily Anderson - Phone: 902-420-5437 Email: emily.anderson@smu.ca , Necia Browne - Phone: 902-420-5437, Email: necia.browne@smu.ca

Commerce: Mahbouba Kafrouny (Nassim) - Phone: 902-491-6532, Email: mahbouba.kafrouny@smu.ca

Science: Courtenay Kyle - Phone: 902-491-8165 Email: courtenay.kyle@smu.ca , Laura Johnston - Phone: 902-491-6214, Email: laura.johnston1@smu.ca

Do I need to prepare for my first session?
It would be helpful if you gave some thought to the issues you wish to address and the goals you have in mind. You may be asked to do "homework" in between sessions. This may involve practicing some of the skills learned, making a conscious effort to think about your situation in a healthier way, or taking specific actions to address your problems outside of the appointment times. It would be helpful if you read Counselling Centre Information for Students
Thumbnail for Personal Counselling page sheet before you attend your first counselling session.

What is the first session like?
When you arrive for your first appointment, you will be asked to complete an intake form. This takes about 5-10 minutes so you may want to come a bit early. You will also be provided with The Counselling Centre information sheet which explains various aspects of our service. In your first session, staff will ask questions about your background and reasons for seeking help. The first session is essentially an initial assessment of your particular needs and an attempt to determine the ways in which our services can help you best. It is also a chance for you to ask any questions you may have about the service.

How do I set up an appointment?
To schedule an appointment call 902-420-5615, drop by our office on the 4th Floor of the Student Centre, click on the online booking icon or email us at counselling@smu.ca. We do not provide counselling via email. We ask that you arrive 5-10 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment time so you can complete the intake form.

Can I get a note? Only in exceptional circumstances will we provide a note.