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University Counselling Service

Student Counselling


A considerable portion of the work of this Service is done in groups. While workshops or group counselling are not right to help with every situation (and the choice about joining a group remains with you), we firmly believe that working in a group is a more effective form of help than individual counselling for many people and many difficulties.

The counsellor that you see may suggest you join one of our groups or workshops, or you can ask about this yourself. This page outlines some of the advantages of taking part in a group and describes some of the groups and workshops we run and aims to help you make a more informed decision about whether joining a workshop or group might be right for you.

For more information about our programme of groups for students for the coming year, please see our Groups and Workshops Timetable or use the links on the left.

Why join a group?

Let's start with a couple of comments from students:   

"It was a fantastic support that I'm very glad was available to me.  It helped me in many ways and I feel like a stronger person because of it".       

"I was quite unsure at first and it took me a few sessions to settle in, but I found the experience very valuable by the end.  It is good to see your situation from another point of view as well as hearing about the problems and strategies of others".

Counselling groups offer a microcosm of the 'real' world, but they are also a place where some of the normal social rules can be broken in a safe environment. A group can allow you to practise different ways of behaving. For example, if you find it difficult to talk in work or social groups, then you are also likely to feel this in a counselling group – but the difference is that the group can offer encouragement and help in overcoming the difficulty you feel rather than simply repeating a ‘failure’. The same applies to many other problems.

Some groups, for example those run by our Cognitive Behavioural Team, require a commitment to practise skills between sessions. Others, for example our ongoing counselling groups, focus on understanding the often unconscious assumptions we make about ourselves and the world.

In joining a group you would be expected to listen carefully to the other members and seek to understand their concerns and support them wherever you can, as well as have time to receive support for yourself in the same nurturing environment. This giving and receiving is one way in which groups are different from individual counselling.

Groups offer a safe and supportive environment in which to learn about ourselves and how we relate to others. They can be a place in which we can see ourselves through the eyes of others, and it is not uncommon to meet others who share some similar struggles and to discover that we are not the only person feeling a particular way.

The counsellors leading the groups are experienced in letting the work of the group develop gradually as trust and safety grow, so you won’t be ‘thrown in the deep end’!

What about the practicalities?

Most of our groups and workshops meet weekly for 90 minutes and tend to have between 8 - 12 members. Stand-alone or linked workshops are also generally 90 minutes, but may have a larger number of participants. All groups and workshops are led by UCS counsellors experienced in this kind of work.

Confidentiality is vital in all UCS work, and if you join a group you will be expected to respect the confidential nature of the material that others bring to the group. What this means in practice will be discussed with you before you join.

If you are considering joining any of our groups (except the one-off or regular workshops) we would usually arrange a brief meeting between you and the relevant counsellor so that you can discuss the group in more detail before making a commitment to join.

Because trust and respect for each member are important, you would be expected to attend your group regularly and punctually, or to give advance notice if you cannot come. Joining a group is not appropriate unless you can make a commitment to attend most of the meetings.