Looking after your health and wellbeing is essential to being your best at The University of Melbourne. Life at university can be exciting and interesting, as well as bring challenges such as adjusting to a new environment and the general stress of student life. Sometimes, it can be difficult to reach out to family and friends, or deal with things by ourselves. Counselling can be helpful during these times.
Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides free, confidential, short-term professional counselling to currently enrolled students and staff at the University of Melbourne.
Why Seek Counselling?
People attend counselling to talk about personal, emotional, or mental health issues which might be affecting their study and life. Common issues that people seek counselling for include:
- Life transitions, such as adjusting to university
- Cultural adjustment
- Study and career issues
- Grief and loss
- Addictive behaviours
- Eating or body image concerns
- Traumatic experiences
- Loneliness and isolation
- Sexuality and gender identity
- Relationship issues
No issue is too big or too small to get support. You may have a longstanding concern, be facing new challenges at university, or simply feel like something isn’t quite right. In every instance, CAPS is here for you.
Our Counsellors are clinical or counselling psychologists and mental health social workers who are experienced in working with a variety of people and presenting issues. Counsellors aim to help by:
- Creating a safe, non-judgmental space to listen to you
- Being an impartial person who you can share your thoughts and feelings with
- Gaining a clearer understanding of your situation, which can include an assessment of your mental health
- Offering a different perspective of the issue or problem
- Utilising evidence-based psychological interventions to improve your coping skills
- Offering advice and information on support and services at UniMelb
- Referring you to another professional who can better help you, if necessary (e.g., private psychologist, psychiatrist, GP, specialist mental health services)
CAPS is committed to being a professional and respectful service that values diversity of culture, beliefs, gender, and sexuality. We also provide specialist counselling for LGBTIQ+ students and staff.
CAPS offers two types of appointments:
Standard Appointments (50 mins)
To book a standard appointment with one of our counsellors, you can:
- Telephone us on 8344 6927 during normal business hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm; Wednesday 9am – 6pm during semester)
- Visit our reception desk at Level 2, 138 Cardigan Street, Carlton 3054
- Book Online – Coming Soon
CAPS works hard to keep waiting times as brief as possible. During semester teaching time, there can be a waiting time of 2 weeks or longer for an appointment to see a Counsellor. Check out what you can do while you are waiting . If you need urgent assistance, click here .
Drop-In Sessions (30 mins)
Each day, CAPS offers 30-minute drop-in sessions at 2.00pm and 2.30pm for people who have not used our service before and need to be seen on the day.
Drop-in sessions are a good way to access counselling for the first time and if your concern cannot wait for a standard appointment booking.
To book a drop-in session:
Registration for drop-in sessions opens at 1.30pm on the same day. These sessions are limited and offered on a first come, first serve basis. You must book the session in person and then wait at the Service until you can be seen - there is plenty of space to study or read. You can contact us to find out about the availability of drop-in sessions on the day.
What happens at a drop-in session?
As drop-in sessions are brief, it is best to bring one or two main issues to focus on with your Counsellor.
If you need further support, your Counsellor can help you:
- Schedule a follow-up standard appointment at CAPS, and/or
- Engage you in a CAPS workshop/webinar, and/or
- Connect you with other resources at the University or wider community.
Waiting For Your Appointment
While you are waiting for your appointment, there are many helpful things you can do in the meantime to support yourself:
- Read our While You ’re Waiting Checklist to take care of yourself during this time
- Look up our Tip Sheets and Information on a range of different topics
- Read about other students’ experiences on our Ask Counselling blog
- Attend Workshops and Webinars running throughout the semester to support your study and wellbeing
- It can be helpful to know what to expect (below) before your first counselling session
To be able to minimize wait times for everyone, we ask you to notify us as soon as possible if you are unable to attend a scheduled appointment so that this time can be offered to someone who is waiting.
When you attend counselling, you can expect a professional, responsive, and respectful service. Our Counsellors are experienced clinical or counselling psychologists and mental health social workers.
As a Service, we value diversity, and recognise that our clients come from diverse backgrounds including
gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, spiritual beliefs, age, relationship status, socioeconomic status, geographical location, health or disability status, and educational experiences. If you have particular preferences in your choice of Counsellor, or would feel more comfortable speaking with a Counsellor whose background is similar to your own, please let the receptionist know when you are making an appointment. We will endeavor to place you with someone of your choice, but this may not always be possible.
It is important to know that all our Counsellors are committed to respecting individual or group differences, and are experienced in working with a variety of people and presenting issues. Your Counsellor may ask about how issues of diversity may be impacting your life and wellbeing in order to better understand you and your concerns.
Any information you provide at registration and what you talk about with your Counsellor is confidential within the Service.This means that everything you discuss with your Counsellor is private. We will not discuss your situation with anyone in or outside the university, unless we have your consent to do so. An exception to this can be when a Counsellor has a duty of care to share information in an emergency to protect you or someone else from serious harm. If you would like to know more, please read our privacy statement .
Attending your first appointment
For your first appointment, we request that you come in 10 minutes before your appointment time to complete your registration. This includes your contact details, enrolment information, consent to treatment, and a questionnaire about your health and wellbeing. This will help your Counsellor understand the concerns that have brought you to counselling.
After you complete your registration, you will be invited to take a seat in our waiting room. Your Counsellor will come out to greet you when they have finished reviewing your responses to the questionnaire.
What is a counselling session like?
A standard individual session with a Counsellor usually goes for 50 minutes.
Every Counsellor has their own individual style and a different set of training experiences, just as every person that comes to counselling is unique - so no two counselling sessions are ever exactly the same.
For your first appointment, however, you can expect that:
- Your Counsellor will introduce themselves and CAPS, and provide information on your right to confidentiality and the exceptions to this.
- You will have the opportunity to share your story, talk about the issues and concerns that have brought you to CAPS, and what you hope to gain from counselling.
- Your Counsellor may conduct an assessment of any mental health symptoms or ask you questions about your history.
- You and your Counsellor will collaborate together on a plan towards recovery and wellbeing. Your counsellor will discuss with you the different options for support including:
- Scheduling a further appointment to meet with CAPS Counsellor for short-term counselling
- Engaging in relevant CAPS workshops and webinars to learn new skills
- Referring you to other supports within the university (e.g., University Health Service; Campus Community; Student Equity and Disability Services; Safer Community etc.)
- Referring you to another professional or service outside the university that may better suit your needs
- Further information including tip sheets, websites, online self-help programs, or apps
In short-term counselling, you and your Counsellor will likely focus on your immediate needs, and work towards the set goals you have both agreed on. In each session, you and your Counsellor will typically be discussing issues or concerns currently affecting you, learning new ways to problem-solve, improving your coping skills, building on your strengths, and regularly reviewing your progress toward your goals.
How many counselling sessions will I have?
Your Counsellor will work with you to determine the number and frequency of sessions you have together, depending on your situation. CAPS primarily offers short term counselling. Many students benefit from just one or two sessions of counselling, with the majority of students seen for 4 sessions or fewer.
Typically, appointments cannot be provided on a weekly basis. It is helpful to have appointments spaced apart to allow you to try out new strategies or ways of coping in between. Your Counsellor will work with you on helpful ways to manage in between sessions.
Some students may need longer term treatment or more specialist assistance than can be provided at CAPS, and Counsellors can help to connect you with a suitable private or community-based service provider.
Can A Counsellor Help Me Apply For Special Consideration?
Students who have been seeing a Counsellor at CAPS about issues affecting their study can talk to their Counsellor about completing the Health Professional Report (HPR).
If possible, before making an appointment:
- Please refer to information on Special Consideration.
- Complete and print the Student portion of the HPR. The HPR can be found on the Student Portal.
What if I have not been to see a Counsellor at CAPS before?
If you have not seen a Counsellor before, you can still make an appointment to discuss personal issues that are impacting your study.
HPR forms are best filled in by health professionals who have prior knowledge of your circumstances. If it is your first time at CAPS, we may not be able to complete your HPR, but we can discuss options and support available with you.