Common problems (Counselling FAQ’s)


What is counselling?

Counselling gives you the opportunity to talk with a trained professional, who can offer support, and new perspectives on your issues.

It is designed to give you the time, space and encouragement to explore and understand the issues you bring. While counselling is not a magic or an instant cure, it can clarify problems and help in their resolution.

The counsellor will be able to help you think about your problems from a different perspective. Their role is to provide you with a secure framework in which to reflect upon your circumstances. The aim is, that in time this will increase your awareness of yourself, your situation, and the choices that are open to you. It will also provide structure and support for you in painful and difficult times.

Counselling can help you to focus on and understand more clearly issues that concern you. By respecting your values, choices and lifestyle, the counsellor can work together with you towards making choices or changes that are right for you.

The main steps in the counselling process are:

  • To help clarify the problem
  • To identify options open to you in the situation
  • To work out what you hope to achieve
  • Identify ways to achieve this goal
  • Provide support and encouragement as you work towards your goal

Will counselling help?

Talking with a counsellor offers a psychological space that friends or family cannot provide.

The ‘severity’ of a problem is relative – i.e., if something is not right, it is not right – counselling is valid whether a concern is minimal or overwhelming.

People who engage in the counselling process often find it useful, although sometimes challenging.

Talking does help.

What kinds of problems can I talk to a counsellor about?

There are no hard and fast rules. If something is troubling you it can be worth spending some time thinking about why this may be happening. There are however a number of issues that frequently come up, for example:

  • Transitioning to university: Whether from school, the workforce or from another culture it can be a difficult process which may require extra support
  • Relationship difficulties: Family and friends, colleagues, commitment, jealousy, abuse
  • Family issues: Partners, children, parenting, separation and divorce, homesickness
  • Difficult experiences: Sexual abuse, violent assault, unwanted pregnancy, serious health problems
  • Lack of confidence: Worried about failing, never being good enough, feeling judged
  • Depression: Feeling isolated, lonely, empty, tearful, unloved, suicidal feelings.
  • Repeated destructive behaviour: Binge eating, self-harming, abusive relationships, alcohol, drugs, addictive behaviours
  • Exam and study stress: Out of control, panic attacks, feelings of inadequacy
  • Bereavement: Loss, anger, loneliness, sadness & depression

Take a look at more information about the most common difficulties students are concerned with. The counsellor can also direct you to other services that may be useful to you.

Does seeing a counsellor mean I am ill?

No, seeing a counsellor doesn’t mean you are ill. However, where there are some symptoms of an illness – such as depression, anxiety etc. – then counselling can be helpful.

Counsellors will not treat you as a sick person, but rather as someone going through a bad time.

What do I have to say in a counselling session?

It doesn’t really matter how you present your problem. You can say whatever you like. Sometimes there is silence; sometimes you might find yourself saying things you had not expected to say. The counsellor will help you explore the matter and will keep referring to you to clarify his/her understanding.

The 60-minute sessions are long enough for you to return to the different areas until you are happy that you have expressed what you are really feeling.

Will the counsellor give me advice?

Counsellors don’t ever give advice of the “I’d leave that relationship if I was you” variety since the purpose of counselling is to help you make your own decision.

They will never make a moral decision about the course of action you ought to take.

They may sum up what they understand you have been saying so far, in order to help you move on and form a plan of action.

They can offer pointers to how others have successfully dealt with common problems and may also make suggestions of the “have you thought of the following” variety.

These suggestions will be drawn from their training in what is helpful and their experience of what has helped others and of course can be rejected if you feel they are unhelpful.

Do I have to pay?

No. Counselling at REGENT Business School is offered free of charge to current students of RBS as part of the support system designed to help you make the most of your studies.

If you need more specialized or more intensive support than RBS’ Counselling Services can provide, you may be referred to an outside service. Some of these are free of charge; others will charge a fee.

What will the counsellor think of me? Will I be judged?

Many of our problems arise just because we are human.

When something goes wrong, it is usually because we are pushing ourselves too hard; because we are in a muddle for reasons we don’t fully understand or because we are suffering from some form of mental distress, which is distorting our view of reality.

Therefore judging clients is not helpful or relevant; you need to be supported in finding your own way out of the problem.

Doesn’t asking for help admit failure?

Surprisingly it can be seen as a matter of strength to ask for counselling.

We all make mistakes and have to learn from them, and it is normal to need several attempts before we get something right. Needing support is a normal part of this process.

A failure is only a failure if your viewpoint is that you must succeed entirely on our own – this is not a burden you have to impose on yourself.

Many people think that they are being strong in not seeking help, whereas in fact those who can admit to their difficulties could be considered the strong ones. Asking for counselling often means you have taken the first difficult step on the road to resolving the problem.

How confidential is counselling?

Counsellors work to a strict Code of Ethics under their respective Professionals Boards within the Health Professions Counsel of South Africa, which means they must inform you of the limits of confidentiality and then stick to these rules. Everything you say is kept confidential to the counselling service unless there is clear evidence someone may be at a severe risk. Generally clients of counselling services find the level of confidentiality more than adequate.

Often the worry about disclosure lessens when the client has had a chance to discuss the problem. When the counsellor speaks to others, it is usually because the client wishes them to know; disclosures made against the client’s wishes are extremely rare.

However, if you are worried about the implications of any breach of confidentiality you may wish to:

  • Speak to a counsellor in general terms first in order to see how their Code of Ethics may apply to your particular situation.
  • Get yourself anonymous help through a telephone line. There are some links on other parts of this site.

What if I definitely want to see a male or female counsellor?

REGENT’s Counselling Service has a team of counselors and other professionals, including both male and female counsellors and may be able to accommodate this preference. Ask when you make first contact.

Who are the counsellors?

REGENT’s Counselling Services include:

  • 3 registered counselors
  • 1 occupational therapist

These professionals are all trained and licensed therapists.

Is counselling like psychiatry?

Counselling bears little relation to psychiatry except that both deal with emotional and mental processes.

Psychiatrists are trained doctors, who work largely through diagnosis of illness and then by prescribing a treatment – usually involving medication.

Counsellors are normally non-medical professionals, who work by talking and encouraging you to find your own solutions.

Counsellors can however recognize the symptoms of severe mental distress, and may suggest you consider medical help if this is appropriate.