Counselling students from USC are using their final-year work placements to help the community through uncertain times, providing phone and online support at the USC Counselling and Wellbeing Clinic.
The student team will grow from 7 to 12 by the start of April, offering unlimited free, closely supervised, counselling services to the community available on 0458 811 220 or firstname.lastname@example.org on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Master of Counselling Program Coordinator Dr Mark Pearson said the students would strengthen the service at a time the community needs mental health support more than ever.
“Everyone is being affected by the situation right now and our message to the public is, don’t wait until it feels really serious before you take steps to get help with your worries,” he said.
“It’s normal to be worried but if you notice that you are not enjoying life anymore, or that social distancing is affecting you, talking to a counsellor can help alleviate stress and help you think clearly and act rationally.
“The clinic is focused on wellbeing and resilience-building. For example, for those who have been severely economically impacted by Covid-19 and who can’t afford counselling, although counselling won’t solve the financial problem, it can help you respond in the most resilient way to what is happening.”
The clinic’s student counsellors are nearing the end of their studies, are closely supervised during the sessions, consult each time with a supervisor of 30 years clinical experience and they use referral pathways to other services as required.
The placement is a normal part of their accreditation for the Bachelor and Master of Counselling, which require 40 and 80 hours counselling time respectively. The face-to-face focus of this was recently shifted in favour of fully phone and online services, due to social distancing requirements.
“Current research shows that there is virtually no difference in the rapport you can build with your counsellor online or via phone and our current clients are happy to do phone and online sessions,” Dr Pearson said.
“And it’s to the student’s advantage to complete as many hours as possible. There are no limits to the number of sessions available. It means students can advance to a higher level of professional association membership when they graduate, so they are very motivated.
He said the counselling interns were working from the USC Counselling and Wellbeing Clinic at Nambour from separate rooms to ensure physical distancing.
The USC Counselling Clinic is not available to USC staff and students to protect anonymity.