New Counselling Tree LogoFAQs

What sort of things do students talk to counsellors about?

Different people experience the same situation in very different ways, so no matter how huge or how trivial your problem may seem, if it is causing you concern your counsellor will try to help. Concerns brought to counselling often include; relationships, bereavement, abuse, anxiety, depression and sexuality. Many students also seek counselling when they don’t have a particular problem, but just don’t feel “quite right”. You may choose to get to know your counsellor before speaking about issues you find it difficult to talk about.

What happens at the assessment appointment?

When you register with the service, you will be offered an initial 30 minute assessment with a counsellor. If you provide us with a phone number and your availability, we may be able to offer you a cancellation appointment sooner.

The aim the first session is:

  • To hear a little about what brings you to the Counselling Service.
  • To tell you more about the counselling service, and to explore what you need and what we can offer.
  • To decide whether counselling is the best service for you and if it is not, to give you information about other resources which may be more appropriate.
What happens after the assessment appointment?

Following your assessment appointment, if you and the counsellor agree that counselling is right for you, you will be offered a counselling appointment.  Students should specify if they want to see the same counsellor as they saw at the assessment appointment.

Depending on how busy the service is, you may need to be placed on the waiting list. The service will contact you as soon as a counselling appointment becomes available. We aim to keep the wait for a first counselling appointment to a maximum of two weeks. At quieter times, you may not have to wait this long.

Where possible, we will try to book your first appointment with the counsellor that you saw during your assessment appointment. However, sometimes this may require a longer wait, depending on the availability of each counsellor, so we may match you with a different counsellor if it means we can see you sooner.

Counselling appointments last up to 50 minutes.

At the end of each appointment, you and the counsellor will jointly negotiate a further appointment or an ending.   We will work with you on a one-to-one basis to reach an agreement about what would be best for you, within the bounds of our resources. At the end of the first session you will be given the counsellor’s email address as a contact reference point.

How many sessions will I need?

Some people find that they need just a few counselling sessions, or even just a single session; others find that they need longer. Sometimes people uncover issues in the process of counselling which take longer to deal with. Every student is different, and you will be treated as an individual.

How do I make an appointment?

Details of how to make an appointment can be found here.

Is counselling confidential?

Here is our policy on record keeping, confidentiality and data-sharing:

Record keeping

It is essential for counsellors to be able to keep records on clients and their sessions. Counsellors’ notes may include personal information including sensitive personal information, key issues discussed during the session, and points of concern.

As part of registering for the service, all students will be asked to provide consent to allow the service to securely hold this information.

If a student is not content for these records to be kept, it will not be possible to provide counselling. The reasons for this will be explained to the student in the initial session, and other support options will be suggested.

Information may at times be used for statistical monitoring purposes, but no students will be identifiable from that data.

All notes are stored securely within the counselling service. Counsellors' notes are kept for a period of five years, after which time they are securely destroyed.

Confidentiality and data sharing
Counsellors’ notes, and the information you provide on your registration and pre-assessment form, will be held confidentially and securely on file within Student Support Services and it will only be shared with other staff in very limited circumstances:

  • Where the member of staff has the express consent of the student to disclose the information (e.g. to  GP, a personal tutor, or another staff member)
  • Where the member of staff or the University would be liable to civil or criminal court procedure if the information was not disclosed
  • Where the member of staff believes the student or a third party is in serious danger/at risk of harm
  • Where there is a legal requirement to disclose information.
  • Where the information is required by the police for the prevention or detection or crime or the apprehension or prosecution of an offender and not providing the information would prejudice the investigation.  

A basic record of engagement is stored on the student record and access to this information is restricted to those involved in the student support system.

Wherever possible, we will seek the consent of students to share information and we will encourage them to disclose this themselves. However, if there is no indication that this has happened, or is likely to happen, or if the crisis or danger is sufficiently acute, the counsellor may pass on the information directly to relevant staff or to external parties such as the student’s General Practitioner.

Data protection: access to notes

Under the Data Protection Act 1998, students have a right of access to all notes kept on them by making a Subject Access Request. Find out how to do this at this link

If codes or technical terms are used in the notes, these will be explained to the clients when the information is provided.

If the notes contain references to other individuals, such as the student’s GP or psychiatrist, where possible consent will be sought from the relevant practitioner before the correspondence is disclosed.  Where consent is not obtained, we will endeavour to remove (“redact”) references to other individuals.  In limited circumstances, it may not be possible to provide information whilst still maintaining the confidentiality of other individuals concerned and in these circumstances the information that can be provided may by restricted.

Details of case notes containing personal information are exempt from disclosure to third parties under Freedom of Information legislation.


All counsellors are required to participate in regular supervision sessions. During these sessions, they may share details of cases, but they will not disclose the name or student number of the client.

Is there a waiting list?

At busy times during the year, the service may have to operate a waiting list. Students will be added to the list and will be offered an appointment as soon as one becomes available. Prioritisation may take place based on urgency of need.

What if the counsellor cannot help me?

Sometimes counselling is not the most appropriate kind of help, or it may just not suit you. The counsellors can refer you on to other services, for example; student support workers, doctors, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and study skills programmes. Our strict policy on confidentiality means that referral would usually only be made at your request.

Who supports the counsellors?

All counsellors are required to have regular and appropriate supervision/consultative support. For all our counsellors this is offered by independent counsellors out with the University.

How can I find out more?

If you have any questions which are not answered here, please:

  • give us a call on 01786 466022
  • drop in to the Student Services Hub, 2A1, Cottrell
Will my counsellor support my application for an extension/exam deferral etc?

A statement of support will only be provided in exceptional circumstances.  That is, if the student has seen a counsellor from the University of Stirling student support services and there has been a discussion and agreement arrived at between counsellor and student.  Further, a statement of support will only refer to circumstances relating to matters disclosed to the counsellor. 

© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
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