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Student Based Services have unfortunately had their share of bad press over the past year or so, and I think it’s time that someone spoke out and vouched for their excellence. The University’s counselling service is by no means perfect, but its portrayal as an apparent failure is simply unwarranted.
After previously having bad experiences with counselling services, I was extremely nervous about setting foot in the room for the first time. But after the first 20 minutes I felt more at ease. Whilst still uncomfortable, I knew that the person sitting opposite me understood where I was coming from, and I knew they were listening to what I was saying. Sometimes the service has short courses running which address different issues (such as anxiety and low moods in my case). We met four afternoons each fortnight, and those of us who attended were given a booklet, allowing us to take note of useful coping strategies. The sessions were run by two service staff, and they were really helpful and led the course in a considerate way.
If there are no courses that would be suitable for you then you would probably be offered one-to-one counselling sessions with one of the trained counsellors. These are 45 minute sessions in a closed room in the Base that run for around six weeks. Every session begins with you filling out a CORE questionnaire, amongst other evaluation forms, so that the counsellor has a good idea of how you are doing. These responses and trends are discussed, and the session will then continue with anything you want to say, or anything you may have worked on over the past week. I found these one-to-one sessions more useful than the group work, and I made progress in understanding how to process what I was feeling and how to verbalise my thoughts. The counsellors are helpful as they don’t just take the issue at face-value; they also consider deeper issues which may hinder progress.
During the course of the counselling sessions, my anxiety improved a great deal but my low moods continued. The one-to-one sessions helped a great deal by teaching me coping strategies that helped me to get through my exams and the rest of the academic year and finish first year with good grades. However, if like me the counselling doesn’t help to improve your mental health, the counsellors can refer you to other services for further support.
Because the counselling service have waiting lists and run at full capacity at certain times in the year, the service can’t offer long-term counselling sessions. More staff would solve this issue, but they would be almost redundant at quieter times of the year. The team is useful if you need short-term help, or you have applied for help through the NHS and want some support in the interim. They’re very good at understanding students, and really do everything they can to put you at ease. Communication is excellent from them, and at the time, I appreciated their discreetness and confidentiality.
Regardless of whether it’s personal, academic, or financial, The Base should be your one-stop-shop to get the guidance you need at Lancaster University. Don’t leave it too late.