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Don’t sweat a visit to the counselling office

February 2, 2014

ChadChad Smith is a counsellor at Red River College in Counselling & Accessibility Services. He holds his Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work from the University of Manitoba.

So you’ve heard Red River College (RRC) offers free counselling to students and you think you might want to give it a try, but what should you expect at your first visit? And what types of things can a counsellor really help you with anyway?

Well, we spoke to Chad Smith, one of the counsellors at RRC’s Exchange District Campus, and it turns there’s a lot they can help you with!

Here’s the lowdown on everything from what you can talk to them about (anything), how often you can visit (as often as you need), who will know you’re going there (nobody) and much more.

mind it!: What types of things can counsellors help students with?

Chad: We can help students work through a wide variety of issues. We offer personal counselling, career counselling and academic counselling — there really isn’t any topic that’s off limits. From homelessness to addiction to childhood traumas such as sexual abuse, we can talk about anything the student feels we need to address.

mind it!: What can students expect the first time they come to your office?

Chad: The first time we meet with a student we will do what’s called an ‘intake’ where we ask them lots of questions to determine what they’re looking to achieve through counselling. It’s really just an opportunity for us to meet the student and for the student to meet us. It takes approximately an hour.

mind it!: What are the most common issues that come up during sessions?

Chad: The most common reasons students seek counselling is for depression and anxiety, stress and relationships troubles.

mind it!: How do you help them work through these issues?

Chad: Let’s take a student experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety for example. First, we’ll explore what it means to them when they say that they’re feeling stressed and anxious. This is because there’s normal stress and anxiety that students can expect while in school, but then there’s stress and anxiety levels that are unmanageable.

After we’ve established the level of stress and anxiety, we’ll take a look at different ways that they have coped in the past and try to determine what has been helpful. We’ll also talk about environment, because it’s often not about the student but their surroundings. For instance, if you live in poverty and you’re constantly worried about safe housing, that stress is going to impact your success in school.

Lastly, I’ll connect the student to other resources, if necessary. If I’m working with a student living in poverty for example, we may talk about student loans, grant programs, or bursaries and awards they may be eligible for.

mind it!: How long will a student usually see you for? Once? Many times throughout the year?

Chad: It really depends on what the student is going through. We see some students once and others regularly throughout the year. On average, I’d say we probably see students for about eight sessions, but if it makes sense to see them more often then we’ll do that. If a student needs longer-term counselling or more specialized counselling we may refer them to a community resource or agency. But we can still be that students’ on-campus support person.

mind it!: Will my instructors and peers know that I’m seeing a counsellor?

Chad: Counselling is completely confidential. We will never disclose information about a student without their consent. So in other words, no one will know you are seeing a counsellor if you don’t want them to.

mind it!: What if I’m in crisis, can I see someone right away?

Chad: There’s always one counsellor available to meet with students who are in crisis. Sometimes the student won’t get in to see someone right that minute, but we always do our best to get them in and they will definitely see someone that same day.

mind it!: What if I’m in crisis when your office is closed?

Chad: There are some great resources in the community including drop-in counselling at Klinic, the mobile crisis unit and a few different 24 hour crisis help lines. Students can call these resources anytime to talk with someone at no cost.


If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call:

Klinic Community Health Centre
(204) 786-8686 or toll free 1-888-322-3019 or TTY (Deaf Access) 204-784-4097