International Students and Wellness

What is Counselling?

Counselling may be unusual in your home culture. However, Canadian students and previous international students who sought counselling have described it as a very useful and positive experience. Counselling is another way to improve your personal and academic life.

Below are some commonly asked questions about counselling. Click on the questions to see the responses (answers expand).

What is counselling?

Counselling is essentially a conversation between the individual and a counselor. A counselor is a trained professional  who genuinely cares about students’ well-being.  The counsellor will listen carefully to your concerns or worries and will help you to explore and identify ways to cope and improve your situation (e.g., personal or emotional challenges, family or relationship problems, etc.).  The counsellor could also offer further resources that address your concerns.

Counselling provides a safe and confidential setting to address the concerns and issues that cause distress.  Students come to counselling with a wide range of issues such as:

  • Stress
  • Culture Shock
  • Adjusting to Canada or university life>
  • Motivation
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Family or relationship difficulties
  • Self-esteem and confidence concerns
  • Harassment or abuse
  • Crisis situations

Who seeks counselling?

People of all ages and backgrounds, at different stages in their lives, seek counselling.

Do students use counselling services often?

Yes, the counsellors see many students on a daily basis and appointments have to be made in advance.

Why should I seek counselling?

Many students are surprised at how helpful counselling can be.  Counselling helps students:

  • Learn strategies to cope with challenges (e.g., stress, anxiety, homesickness, etc.)
  • Deal with stress, grief, trauma or other life stressors
  • Understand problems, identify strategies, and strengthen problem-solving skills
  • Improve their academic performance
  • Reduce feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Regain a sense of focus and control
  • Discover personal strengths
  • Succeed at university

It is not uncommon for international students to experience personal or emotional difficulties as they adjust to Canadian culture and the university lifestyle. They may experience culture shock because of the different language, customs, and routines to which they will have to adapt. Culture shock may involve feelings of disorientation, anxiety, loneliness, stress, homesickness, or anger and frustration.  When a student or someone they know is experiencing these feelings, it might be useful to seek out a counsellor for help.

Is counselling private and confidential?

Yes. Counsellors have a legal obligation to keep all information disclosed by students confidential. Anything a student tells a counsellor is confidential and will not be shared with family, university staff, course instructors, or others without written permission and will not become part of academic records.

Every student is required to complete an intake form at the first appointment, which explains your privacy and confidentiality rights and describes rare exceptions when your personal information may be shared.

What are the qualifications of the counsellors?

All counsellors are either registered Psychologists or accredited Master’s level counsellors. Interns also assist with counselling services under the direct supervision of registered Psychologists.

All counsellors are trained to be sensitive to cultural differences and are experienced in working with students who have a variety of personal and emotional difficulties (see Counselling Topics).

What can I expect at the first session?

Generally, when you first come in, you have the opportunity to discuss your concern(s) with an intake/triage counsellor. You can share as much or as little as you are comfortable with sharing. The counsellor will listen closely to any concerns or challenges that you might have and will help you explore and identify strategies to cope with your particular situation. The counsellor will ask you questions to learn more about your situation. If you are unsure about the counselling process, this is a chance for you to see what it is like and to ask any questions you may have about how counselling can help you or support your well-being. During this intake session, you will be given options to help you with your situation that may range from working with a group, attending a single session walk-in appointment, meeting with a counsellor on or off campus, or meeting with a community agency. During this process, you will have a chance to help decide what is the best option for you and will leave with a plan on how to proceed going forward.

If the option you are offered is individual counselling, you will be provided with  targeted, brief, change-oriented counselling.  If you believe you require longer-term treatment, we will do our best to assist you in finding appropriate services to help meet your needs.

From August 6, 2018 to September 28, 2018, all individual counselling appointments with Psychological Services will be on a single session, walk-in basis. The appointments are booked first come first served every morning Monday to Friday for that day only.

Throughout the rest of the year, walk-in appointments will continue to be available in addition to groups, workshops, lectures and individual sessions.  During December and April exam periods, extra sessions will be available to assist students during these stressful times.

To meet with an intake/triage counsellor, please visit us in-person in room 4112 of the Western Student Services Building. 

***PLEASE NOTE: single session, walk-in appointments do not replace our crisis services. If you are in crisis, please visit the Reception/Intake office to book an appointment.***

How do I book an appointment?

To book a walk-in, single session appointment, please visit the Psychological Services Intake Office, Room 4112 of the Western Student Services Building  (4th floor, next to the University Community Centre).

You can book an individual counselling appointment with a Psychological Services Counsellor by calling 519-661-3031 or by visiting the Intake Office (Room 4112, Western Student Services Building).

Where do I go?

Psychological Services counsellors are located within the Student Development Centre- Western Student Services Building, 4th floor, Room 4100. (

Who else can I talk to?

If you are going through a difficult time, it is always helpful to talk to someone you trust. Friends, family members, and Peer Guides can be great sources of support. You are also welcome to come in and talk to staff members at the International and Exchange Student Centre. Advisors at IESC can assist you with your personal and cultural transition issues, listen to your concerns, answer questions, or refer you to resources that may be helpful for your particular situation. Confidential individual appointments can be made with an IESC Advisor at the Student Development Centre's Reception office, WSS 4100 or by calling 519-661-3031.

Do I have to pay for counselling services?

No. Counselling services at Western are free of charge and confidential. If you are unsure about the counselling process, book an appointment to discuss what it is like and to ask any questions you may have about how counselling could be beneficial for you.

Are the services available in other languages?

No, but the counsellors are trained in cross-cultural sensitivity and are experienced in working with diverse populations. There may be occasions when some counsellors may be able to speak in another language. If necessary, interpretation services can be arranged.

Does my problem have to be a serious one to see a counsellor?

No, counselling can help many personal, relationship, or identity problems at any stage of life, no matter how minor or serious.

Can my friend join me in counselling?

If you feel that you need support from a friend, then you are welcome to bring a friend to your first appointment with the counsellor.

What if I am in a crisis and need immediate help?

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please come to Psychological Services, Room 4112, during regular business hours (8:30am - 4:00pm) and one of our counsellors will provide you with immediate support. The Student Development Centre also offers crisis and counselling services to students who experience any form of assault (e.g., sexual assault, physical assault, and/or emotional abuse). If you need immediate support outside of office hours, please contact one of the following support services:

24 Hour / After Hours Crisis Resources:


  • Emergency Department University Hospital: 519-663-3197 339 Windermere Road (at Western Road)
  • Victoria Hospital Emergency: 519-685-8141 800 Commissioners Road East (at Baseline)
  • CMHA Walk-In Crisis Centre: 519-434-9191 (open 24 hours/day, 7 days a week) 648 Huron St.

What if I am worried about a friend or someone else?

If you are worried about the well-being of a friend, you can let them know about Psychological Services at the Student Development Centre. If your friend feels comfortable with seeking help from a cousellor, you can help them make an appointment by calling 519-661-3031 or by accompanying them to Psychological Services (Western Student Services building, 4th Floor). If you wish, you could also make an appointment for yourself to discuss with a counsellor your concerns about your friend.