My Experience with UVic Counselling Services
Coming out of a small town high school, therapy had a very negative connotation in my mind. I had a set idea of who therapy was “for”, and I thought I did not fall into that category. I’m not afraid to admit that I was wrong on that point, and my opinion was formed due in part to the stigma surrounding mental health.
It’s 2019, and the girl who decided to come to UVic is now a young woman with a far more balanced and informed mindset on the importance of mental health.
At the beginning of this, my fourth and final year at UVic, I felt in desperate need of some professional advice. The universal pressures of graduation, the stress of the impending year, and moving into a new apartment amongst other issues were all taking their toll on me. In fact, they still are.
I realized I was only putting myself at a disadvantage by not doing everything in my power to improve my mental state, so I decided to go to therapy. I had read about UVic Counselling Services online but had never visited their office. A few weeks ago, I resolved it was time to at the very least, appraise the resources at my disposal.
I tracked down the Counselling Services Office with difficulty; it’s hidden down a long hallway on the second floor of the University Center, beside the International Students Office. I liked the location. It gave a sense of privacy and intimacy to the space. Inside, a cozy looking waiting area and two attentive front desk employees awaited me.
As it was my first time there, I showed up for a Walk-in Session. That meant, all appointments were booked at 12:30pm, for that afternoon’s appointments between 1 and 4. Since I had no class that afternoon, I decided to come 45 minutes early to ensure I got a spot. I spoke to the front desk, grabbed a hard candy, and sat down with my number: 5. Even 45 minutes early, there were four students who had beat me there.
I took a look around the room. The big whiteboard on the wall offered tips to improve mental well-being (“smile for just two minutes,” “find a moment to help others”). Resource pamphlets lay on top of round end tables; posters about events happening in the Multifaith Chapel lined one wall. There was even doodle books and coloring pages beside the deep-set couches. The entire space let off an aura of quiet peace. I felt comfortable to wait there, with a book I had to read for class, until 12:30.
When 12:30 rolled around, the other students waiting were called up one-by-one to book an appointment. I quickly realized there were only 4 appointments available per afternoon, and my heart plummeted. Cursing myself for not getting there earlier, I kept a close eye on the front desk. They called my number, and fortunately for me, another student couldn’t make the time of the appointment that was given to them, so I got it: 2:00! I thanked the receptionists profusely and headed down to Mystic Market for some celebratory tacos before my appointment.
At 1:45, I came back up to fill out an intake form on the computer with my personal information, and why I wanted to see a specialist. Before I knew it, I was meeting my therapist, and taking a seat in her office. At first, the fact that she was training for her Doctorate in Psychology didn’t faze me. What I quickly realized is that all of her sessions would be taped and shown to her supervisor. Yes, they did tell me this at the front desk, but it didn’t quite sink in until I was in the room and realizing that a webcam was going to film my impending breakdown.
After discussing the boundaries of the video (it would only be used to evaluate her work in the session, and then destroyed), I realized it wasn’t a huge issue. Her education was more important, and I sincerely doubted her supervising professor would be judging me in any way (they are therapists too, after all!).
I spoke with my therapist for close to an hour, and it was honestly one of the most refreshing experiences I had so far this semester. It was helpful to speak to an impartial party, not just my friends and family, who could evaluate my responses and help me focus on myself, not the problems outside of my control. Even to have someone say, quietly and simply, “that sounds incredibly painful”, was liberating in so many ways.
We ended our session with more deep breathing exercises, and I scheduled my next appointment for two weeks later. I left the office feeling more okay than I had in weeks, and so grateful that I had chosen to take a step towards getting help.
I’m thankful that UVic has this resource on campus, and I would highly encourage any student to put aside their ideas of who therapy is “for” and visit Counselling Services. If you’re anything like me, one decision to visit the second floor of the University Center could help you in so many ways.