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 and can even be booked for the same day in the event of a crisis.

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 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 direct supervision.

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). For Black and Racialized students who are experiencing race-related stress and are seeking a safe space to talk, they can request to speak with counsellors who are themselves persons of these communities with lived experience. Please visit the following page for more information on Black and Racialized Student Support

How do I book an appointment?

You can book an individual counselling appointment with a Counsellor by calling 519-661-3030.

Where do I go?

Counsellors are located in Western Health and Wellness, Room 2170, Thames Hall.

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 selected personal and cultural transition issues, listen to concerns, answer questions, and refer you to resources that may be helpful for your particular situation. Individual appointments can be made with an IESC Advisor at Western International, 2nd Floor, International & Graduate Affairs Building, or by calling 519-661-2111 ext. 89309.

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 call 519-661-3030. Western Mental Health Services have spots available for same-day crisis appointments (in-person, phone, or video). Additional Crisis Support Information Services and after hours support.

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 Health and Wellness Services and Counselling. If your friend feels comfortable with seeking help from a counsellor, you can help them make an appointment by calling 519-661-3030 or by accompanying them to Thames Hall room 2170. If you wish, you could also make an appointment for yourself to discuss with a counsellor your concerns about your friend.