Being a student is stressful. Period. Add to that the many additional pressures students in the COVID-19 era are dealing with and you may find yourself needing some extra support.
When the pandemic first hit, MacEwan University’s Wellness and Psychological Services (WPS) immediately moved its services online. Connecting with a counsellor digitally might feel different, but it can be a great option for students. “The research is quite clear that many clients can grow and change as effectively with online and telephone counselling as they do with face-to-face counselling,” says Annelise Lyseng, a registered psychologist and counsellor at MacEwan. “Especially if they are facing concerns such as anxiety, depression and stress.”
Here are four reasons Lyseng says you might just want to give remote counselling a try – and a few tips for how to make the most of your online counselling experience.
1. It’s convenient
“Students often tell us that they appreciate how easy it is to fit online or telephone counselling into their lives,” says Lyseng. All you need to access WPS counselling from anywhere in Alberta is a device (phone, tablet or laptop) – and a forward-facing camera and internet connection if you opt for online counselling.
Tip: You’ll spend 30 to 60 minutes meeting with a counsellor, so make sure you have a quiet, safe, comfortable space where you aren’t worried about someone popping in on you. For some people, that might mean letting your family members know you are going to be in a meeting the next hour and to please not knock on the door. For other people, it might mean ducking into their car and having their session there.
2. It can be really comfortable
Since you don’t need to fight traffic or take public transit, or spend time sitting in a waiting room, you can use that extra time to prepare for your appointment. Grab yourself a cup of water or tea and fluff up a pillow in your favourite comfy chair.
“We can bring elements of a client's home or space into the counselling conversation and use them in a positive way,” she says. “I've had clients introduce me to a beloved pet, show me their favourite book, or highlight pictures of people they care about and memories that they like returning to when they're feeling low.”
Tip: Think about things you might want to have handy during your session to make you feel more comfortable – tissues, a soft blanket or photo or even a list of the things you want to talk about.
3. You’ll learn new skills where you’ll use them
“As counsellors, we try to make our offices as comfortable, warm and inviting as possible, but it can sometimes be tricky to learn a skill in an office and then transfer it elsewhere,” says Lyseng. With online counselling, clients can practice new coping strategies – guided breathing or visualization exercises – in their own spaces. “They are often able to practice those same coping strategies more naturally and independently outside of our sessions.”
To give you a head start, here’s a look at what an online counselling session looks like.
4. Practice makes perfect
It might feel a bit strange at first, says Lyseng, but online counselling gets easier and feels more natural after a session or two, as you become more familiar with the process and start creating a routine around it.
“It’s important to prepare yourself and understand that this experience will be a little bit different from meeting in person,” she says. “And to remember that there are still a lot of good things that can come from this type of session.”
Tip: Before your session, you’ll receive information about how to connect with your counsellor – things like how to make sure you’re using a private and secure internet connection.
How to book your appointment
Contact Wellness and Psychological Services to set up an initial consultation that meets your needs – phone, online or in person (following Alberta Health Services guidelines). Follow-up counselling sessions will be offered by phone or video only.
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