Common counselling issues

The following is brief list of common concerns explored in counselling.  These are examples and do not include the full range of issues students might bring to counselling. You can make an appointment with a counsellor anytime.

Academic pressures Adjustment to university Alcohol Anger
Anxiety Assertiveness Career Issues Communication
Decision making Depression Eating disorders Expectations
Family Problems Gender Identity Grief Panic
Perfectionism Phobias Procrastination Relationship Issues
Relaxation Self-esteem Self-harm Sex
Sexual Orientation Sexuality Stress Substance Abuse
Suicide Trauma Worry Other

Academic pressures

It is common for students to feel academic pressure.  This can arise from personal factors, like your ability to manage your time, or external factors, like relationships with family or friends.  Knowing the academic policies as well as the many services and support offered at UNB Saint John are great tools to help you cope with academic pressures.

You can also make an appointment with a counsellor to explore options or discuss factors adding academic pressures.

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Adjustment to university

Many students find adjusting to university a challenge.  There may be issues with time management, making new friends, getting used to new living situations, adjusting to new teaching and learning methods, as well as coping with expectations from your family and yourself.

Acknowledging achievements, developing relationships, and having fun can support your adjustment to university. You can also make an appointment with a counsellor for a little one-on-one encouragement.

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Alcohol

Drinking alcohol is a common practice for many university students. For most students, occasional use does not get in the way of attaining academic and personal goals. However, sometimes alcohol consumption does interfere and can lead to negative consequences.

You can make an appointment with a counsellor to talk about alcohol use by you or a friend.  Support can make a difference.

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Anger

Anger is a natural and normal response to feeling threatened or thinking that something is unfair. Sometimes anger is based on our past experiences, our expectations, or other unpredictable things in our environment that cause us to feel "on guard". This emotional response sometimes can feel overwhelming. 

Exploring alternative ways to manage anger, along with relaxation and communication tools, are often counselling goals for students with this concern. You can make an appointment with a counsellor to discuss individualized strategies related to anger.

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Anxiety

Anxiety is our body’s reaction to perceived danger or important events.  Anxiety is like our body's smoke detector that goes off to warn us of fire.  But sometimes smoke detectors go off when there is no real fire and that's when anxiety can cause problems in our lives.

Noticing our thoughts, behaviours, and reactions to stressful events, and working on strategies to soothe these overwhelming experiences is often helpful in reducing anxiety, overwhelming feelings, and worry. Sometimes simply debriefing stressful events is helpful.  You can make an appointment with a counsellor for personalized strategies and skills to help you cope.

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Assertiveness and Communication

Assertiveness is a way that people communicate their wants and needs, to stand up for oneself while at the same time respecting the rights of others. Learning assertiveness means practicing identifying your own needs and also practicing language that communicates directly what you are trying to say. Assertiveness also means practicing ways to say “no.”

Communication can affect feelings and relationships with friends and family and is one of the most complex of all behaviours. Developing effective communication often involves reflective listening, recognizing nonverbal ways of communicating, and practice using “I” messages.

Want to practice with someone? Make an appointment with a counsellor.

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Decision making

All of us have to make decisions every day. Some decisions are relatively straightforward and simple: Is this essay ready to hand in to my professor now? Others are quite complex: Which of these majors should I choose?

Simple decisions usually involve a simple decision making process but difficult decision require a more complex process.  Making an appointment with a counsellor can help you learn these important skills.

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Depression

Feelings of depression often include extreme exhaustion, demotivation, and a sense of hopelessness or worthlessness. Depression may also result in physical symptoms such as changing habits of eating or sleeping, and behaviours such as less interest in participating in things that we enjoy. 

Looking at ways to boost physical and emotional energy, becoming re-engaged with interests and close relationships, and enhancing enjoyment of life are some of the things that you can expect when working with depression. Make an appointment to see a counsellor if you are noticing that you are not feeling like yourself lately.

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Disordered eating and self-harm

Disordered eating describes a range of food-related behaviours, including dieting, compulsive or binge eating, and extreme control over food and food intake.  Disordered eating is considered a self-harming behaviour and is often accompanied by anxiety, other overwhelming emotions, or abuse.

Self-harm is any kind of behaviour that causes harm to yourself when you are experiencing overwhelming feelings.  Self-harm is not suicidal behaviour; rather, it is a coping strategy for managing intense emotions such as anxiety or sadness.

Addressing the feelings and though behind the self-harming behaviour, supporting those managing these concerns in feeling more safe and stable, enhancing stress management, and finding new ways to enjoy the world are all strategies used in counselling.  Make an appointment with a counsellor if you are experiencing these behaviours or want to make a change in your life.

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Expectations and perfectionism

Expectations are a part of the world we live in.  We have expectations about others, about the world around us and about ourselves.  Others have expectations about us and we often feel pressured to live up to these expectations or conform to them, especially if they come from people of importance in our lives; parents, teachers, partners, etc.  Expectations can cause us to feel anxious, depressed, or frustrated among other things.

Most people would consider having high standards a good thing.  Perfectionists, though, set their standards so high that they cannot be met or are only met with great difficulty.  They feel that anything short of perfect is horrible and minor imperfections will lead to catastrophe.  Perfectionists tend to feel that they are a failure, a horrible person, and never "good enough".  They feel stressed, anxious, depressed, and exhausted.  If you are having difficulty because of these issues, make an appointment with a counsellor to get help.

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Grief

Grief includes feelings of suffering, sorrow and pain due to loss. Any type of loss can cause grief, such as moving to a new town, the death of a friend, family member or pet, relationship changes or divorce, and even health changes such as chronic illness or pregnancy.  Finding a safe place to process the complex emotions associated with grief, remembering and mourning the loss, and reconnecting with the community are areas where most people feel soothed when experiencing grief.  Make an appointment with a counsellor if you would like to explore this area of your life.

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Panic and phobias

Panic attacks are characterized by a fear of disaster or of losing control even when there is no real danger. A person may also have a strong physical reaction during a panic attack. Panic attacks can occur at any time, and many people with panic disorder worry about and dread the possibility of having another attack.  A person with panic disorder may become discouraged and feel ashamed because he or she cannot carry out normal routines like going to class or driving.

When fears become so severe that they cause tremendous anxiety and interfere with your normal life, they're called phobias. A phobia is an intense fear of something that, in reality, poses little or no actual danger. Common phobias and fears include closed-in places, heights, snakes, and needles. Phobias can be managed and cured through self-help strategies and therapy. 

Make an appointment to talk to a counsellor if you want to take your life back from panic or phobias.

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Procrastination

Why do today what I can put off forever?  I work better under pressure.  These are all popular excuses for procrastinating.  When we strip away the excuses we often find bigger reasons:  low self-esteem, low frustration tolerance, or hostility.  If you do not feel you can successfully perform a task, you are likely to delay or avoid beginning it. If you have to wait for a reward, or someone else to motivate or inspire you, procrastination becomes the means of avoiding the hassle. If you are disappointed because life doesn't give you what you want or think you deserve, procrastination becomes the means of rebellion.

Procrastination is a common issue but can sometimes become severe enough that it prevents us from achieving our goals.  If this sounds like you, make an appointment with a counsellor for help.

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Relationship issues

We are social beings and crave relationships with those around us; family, friends, and intimate partners.  Our relationships can bring us great joy, love, and support but can also cause us pain, grief, and stress.  Relationship issues can be made more relevant for students by the fact that most people in a University are in a period of personal change, which can then make them feel less sure of what they want or how they can expect others to react.  Many people seek counselling for help dealing with the relationships in their lives.  You can make an appointment to talk to a counsellor if this is effecting you. 

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Relaxation

Relaxation techniques are a great way to cope with stress or help with sleep problems. Relaxation isn't just about peace of mind or enjoying a hobby. Relaxation is a process that decreases the effects of stress on your mind and body. Relaxation techniques can help you cope with everyday stress and with stress related to various life issues; academics, anxiety, and anger.

Whether your stress is spiraling out of control or you've already got it tamed, you can benefit from learning relaxation techniques. Learning basic relaxation techniques is easy. Relaxation techniques also are often free or low cost, pose little risk and can be done just about anywhere. Make an appointment with a counsellor to explore these simple relaxation techniques and get started on de-stressing your life and improving your health.

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Self-esteem

Possessing little self-regard can lead people to become depressed, to fall short of their potential, or to tolerate abusive situations and relationships. Too much self-love, on the other hand, results in an off-putting sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from failures. 

Perhaps no other self-help topic has spawned so much advice and so many (often conflicting) theories.  What we do know if that self-esteem, self-respect, and self-compassion are essential.  If you feel this is an area in your life that needs attention, make an appointment with a counsellor to talk about it. 

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Sex, Sexuality, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

All people are sexual beings from birth until death. Our sexuality includes: our bodies, our biological sex, our gender, our gender identity, our sexual orientations, human sexuality, and our values.  Not everyone has the same definition of sex and what it includes so when you are talking with your partner, make sure both parties understand what you are talking about. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexual health as "the state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction and infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive, respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled."

Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. LGBTQ is a common term used to identify people who see themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer or Questioning. 

Biological sex and gender are different; gender is not inherently connected to one’s physical anatomy. Gender identity is far more complicated. Along with one’s physical traits, it is the complex interrelationship between those traits and one’s internal sense of self as male, female, both or neither as well as one’s outward presentations and behaviors related to that perception.

If you are having issues understanding your sexuality, sexual orientation, gender, or other related issues, make an appointment with a counsellor.  People who identify as LGBTQ also often deal with coming out and related issues.  It can help to talk to a counsellor about this and find out about some strategies, resources, and supports. 

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Stress

Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But when you’re constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price. You can protect yourself by recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress and taking steps to reduce its harmful effects.  Counsellors can also help you learn strategies and skills to help you cope with the demands in your life. Make an appointment today.

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Substance Abuse and Addiction

People experiment with drugs for many different reasons. Many first try drugs out of curiosity, to have a good time, because friends are doing it, or in an effort to improve athletic performance or ease another problem, such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Use doesn’t automatically lead to abuse, and there is no specific level at which drug use moves from casual to problematic. It varies by individual. Drug abuse and addiction is less about the amount of substance consumed or the frequency, and more to do with the consequences of drug use. No matter how often or how little you’re consuming, if your drug use is causing problems in your life—at work, school, home, or in your relationships—you likely have a drug abuse or addiction problem. Make an appointment with a counsellor to get help.

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Suicide

Suicide is a troubling topic that most of us would rather not deal with, but suicide is a reality, and it is more common than we would like to think.

  • More than 3,500 Canadians kill themselves each year.
  • 1 in every 25 Canadians attempts suicide during his or her lifetime
  • A 1994 United Nations study over a three-year period found Canada’s suicide rate for children and youth under 21 to be among the highest in the world.

Many times suicidal actions are a desperate “cry for help” and many suicides can be prevented. By paying attention to warning signs and talking about the “unthinkable,” you may be able to prevent a death.  If you are reading this because you or someone you know is considering suicide call 9-1-1, the Mobile Mental Health Crisis Line (1-888-811-3664) or the CHIMO Helpline (1-800-667-5005). You can also make an appointment with a counsellor to talk. 

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Trauma

If you’ve gone through a traumatic experience, you may be struggling with upsetting emotions, frightening memories, or a sense of constant danger. Or you may feel numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. When bad things happen, it can take a while to get over the pain and feel safe again. But with the right treatment, self-help strategies, and support, you can speed your recovery. Whether the traumatic event happened years ago or yesterday, you can heal and move on. Make an appointment with a counsellor to talk more about this.

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Worry

Worrying can be helpful when it spurs you to take action and solve a problem. But if you’re preoccupied with “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios, worry becomes a problem. Unrelenting doubts and fears can be paralyzing. They can sap your emotional energy, send your anxiety levels soaring, and interfere with your daily life. But chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more positive perspective. Make an appointment to get help with this from a counsellor.

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