Life throws all sorts of things our way which can lead to us needing help navigating through our feelings. The university’s counselling service has a variety of options to help with a range of issues. Pippa, a new counselling service ambassador, describes her experience with the counselling service and explains the options available.
I have always thought of myself as a bit of an overthinker. Attempting to come up with all the possible scenarios so I can best prepare for each and every eventuality. I thought it was helping me to feel more in control. Previously, family and friends would notice my inability to go with the flow and suggested counselling or workbooks. But I was adamant that I was fine. I didn’t have any issue, I just liked to be prepared.
Then going into the second year of my PhD, I began scratching. I had finally stopped biting my nails but instead, to calm my nerves, I had moved onto attacking my skin. So I decided I would give counselling a go.
When I looked at the list of options when signing up to the counselling service, I only recognised face-to-face counselling, so chose that option without any investigation into the others. After signing up, I called and managed to get an appointment the following week. Super quick. I had feared that I could be waiting a month or so. But the response time is great here at Warwick. The average waiting time during 2017-2018 was 17 days.
It was suggested that I write down what I wanted to talk about in advance. So over the preceding week, all my recurring thoughts that I was overthinking and analysing went onto an incredible mind map. I’m not sure if it was having all my thoughts written down or knowing that I was going to talk to someone soon, but I did find I felt a lot better after booking the appointment.
The session itself was very relaxed. The majority of my knowledge about counselling and therapy was from TV shows, so I was very happy not to find a couch to lie on. We slowly worked through my mind map and at the end, my counsellor suggested a workbook called “What… Me Worry.”
I printed off the workbooks and began to read the first one. Honestly, I struggled to get through it initially. Mainly because it was saying exactly how I felt and I was nervous I would get to the end and be worrying about how I was worrying too much. However, after the first two or three sections, I found that the workbook was actually very enlightening with respect to both what worrying was and also different ways I could try to manage it. I am still using some of the techniques daily.
In hindsight, I may not have needed the one-to-one counselling to guide me to the workbooks. There are a lot of, well laid out, self-help resources online, covering a variety of issues. So I may have been able to go straight there. However, having it suggested to me and knowing there would be a follow-up meeting gave me the motivation I needed to actually read it.
Another option would have been the email counselling. At the time I was unsure what email counselling entailed and this had initially put me off. But now I know more, I think it may have better suited some of my needs. Email counselling has the same principles as face-to-face but you can message at your own convenience. You have the messages there, so you can always look back to see what had been suggested and for me, being based at Gibbet Hill campus, a 10-15 minute walk from the main campus, would have meant I didn’t have to travel to the counselling service building.
Another avenue I hadn’t understood at the time but probably would have been a great help were the workshops. There is a range of workshops available, tailored to different issues currently including emotional resilience and understanding perfectionism. Currently just knowing the workshops are available makes me feel less isolated because I know it’s not just me struggling.
The final option provided by the counselling team is group therapy sessions. These are weekly sessions where you have the opportunity to share experiences and get insight from people from different backgrounds. I have heard this is a great way to connect with others and to really self-reflect.
Overall, my experience so far has been two counselling sessions and I am almost through the “What … Me Worry!” workbooks. I am still scratching, however, I feel I am a lot better at stopping myself overthinking small details by putting the techniques into action if I feel I’m beginning to spiral, which is a great improvement for me.
If you have questions about any of the different options provided by the counselling service please feel free to contact me by email or contact the counselling service team.
Do you have any experience with counselling? Are you familiar with the options available to you? Have you attended any counselling workshop? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
Pippa Richardson is in the third year of her PhD in neuroscience here at the University of Warwick looking in detail at proteins involved in learning and memory. You can find her on twitter @pipparichardso2.