In “Going to a Counsellor: What to Expect – Part I,” we talked about the questions you can expect to be asked at your appointment. But what about your questions? If you have concerns about your experience, how your counselling sessions are going, or any recommended treatments, ASK! If you still haven’t scheduled that first appointment and aren’t sure where to begin, read on to find some answers!
- Why am I being asked all of these personal questions?If, at any time, you feel uncomfortable answering a question, feel free to say so. The point of counselling is to help you feel better. Don’t feel that you must talk about certain topics before you are ready. But keep in mind that your counsellor is gathering this type of personal information for several important reasons. Knowing more about you will help your counsellor…
- understand if you are experiencing acute stress and/or determine a diagnosis*;
- better define the goals of your counselling sessions;
- decide whether your counselling should be short term (4-8 sessions) or long term (weekly sessions for several months); and
- determine whether seeing other health care professionals (e.g., a psychiatrist) or getting involved in other programs, like group therapy (requires Adobe Reader), would be helpful for you.
- What mental health programs are offered other than counselling?It can be challenging to get help through your school if you don’t know what programs they run (e.g., psychiatric services, support groups, etc.). If you are interested in a program your school does not offer, your counsellor can help you find a program in the community.
- What are some books, websites, or videos that will tell me more about my symptoms?Your counsellor can provide you with a lot of valuable resources and information. This is a great opportunity to learn more about what you have been feeling! And taking the time to learn about your symptoms will help you realize that there are many people who are feeling the same way as you.
- I don’t like my counsellor—what should I do?The health care professional you meet at your first appointment may or may not be the counsellor you see at future sessions. It is important that you are able to develop a connection, or “therapeutic alliance” with your counsellor if you want this experience to benefit you. If you don’t like your counsellor, you won’t want to share your private thoughts and feelings, and you may not be open to their advice or suggestions. In this case, ask to see someone else. Speak with the person at the front desk if you are not comfortable telling your counsellor how you feel.
- What else should I know before I go?
- If you want to see a counsellor who is male or female, you can make the request when you set up your first appointment.
- Schools differ in the total number of counselling sessions they offer. If you need more than your school’s maximum, you will be directed to the appropriate resource.
- You can decide not to proceed with any treatment you are not comfortable with. Give it some thought or speak with another professional before deciding against it.
- Remember that your international student health policy will include some mental health benefits—but there are limits to this type of coverage. For example, some policies cover up to $1,000 (for visits to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker) and up to $25,000 (for hospitalization due to psychological, mental, or emotional disorders). If you exceed your coverage limit, the outstanding balance with be your responsibility. Always check your policy or call the emergency assistance line to find out what and how much is covered before you go.
- Keep in mind that there are certain exclusions related to mental health issues. For example, there is no drug coverage for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or similar conditions. Always double check with your school’s international student office, your parents, or with your homestay coordinator before making any big decisions!
Seeking help is an important first step to feeling better. But remember that asking questions and being honest with your counsellor and yourself will help ensure that you are getting the right kind of help for you!
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* In Canada, professions like counselling and psychotherapy are regulated; this means counsellors, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists must be licensed. Typically, only psychologists and psychiatrists can diagnose a mental disorder. However, counsellors who receive additional training are permitted to make diagnoses in certain provinces.
(Last reviewed December 31, 2013)
- Counselling Connect. (2013). Essentials of the therapeutic relationship. Retrieved from http://www.ccpa-accp.ca/blog/?p=119.
- MacKenzie, K.R. (1997). Information regarding group therapy. Retrieved from http://www.cgpa.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/dr_mackenzie.pdf.