Frequently asked questions

(See also our leaflet Information for Counselling Clients)

My doctor says I ought to come for counselling but I’m not sure. Do I have to come?
No. Your doctor must think that spending some time talking about your problems would be helpful. However, it is up to you to decide whether you feel comfortable with the idea of counselling. Coming to a First Contact appointment will give you a flavour of what it would be like but it doesn’t commit you to more sessions, unless you want them.

See also What happens in the First Contact session?
What are the sort of things people come to counselling about?
Loads of different things: if it’s upsetting you and making it hard to cope with your life it might be a good idea to talk to a counsellor. Sometimes people come because
  • they are very low or depressed
  • they are really worried and anxious about life
  • they are having a hard time in a relationship with a partner, friend or parent
  • they feel bad about themselves and have no confidence
  • they are self harming, or feeling suicidal
  • they feel very angry and upset a lot of the time
  • someone they love has died
  • there have been other losses or unwanted changes in their lives
What happens in the First Contact session?
It is a meeting with a counsellor that lasts about 1 to 1½ hours. At the very start you’ll be asked to fill in a CORE questionnaire about how you’ve been feeling over the past week. Then the counsellor will give you some information about counselling and answer any questions you have about it. You’ll do some paperwork together (contact details, your availability and preferences), and the counsellor will ask you about your reasons for coming to counselling and what you hope to get out of it. They’ll tell you about the other services in Castlegate that might be useful for you. There is usually a wait for counselling and this can be a few months, so you’ll talk about how you’ll manage this wait. You and the counsellor might talk about some ideas for looking after yourself, or some reading or websites you could look at in the meantime.

See also What is the CORE questionnaire, and do I have to do it?
What do I do if I feel I can’t wait for counselling?
We understand that when you are upset or worried it can be hard to wait to talk to a counsellor. We wish we could organise it straightaway, but there is a lot of demand from other young people who are having a tough time too. You might get some ideas on how to get started on your issues (self-help) at First Contact. You might want to do some practical stuff for yourself with support from the drop-in.

However, if things are really bad and you are feeling ill or out of control then you will need to go to your GP (or go back again if you have already seen them once) and tell them that you need a more urgent response. You can also go straight to Accident and Emergency at the Hospital if you are really worried about your mental health.
How can just talking about my problems help?
We know that counselling isn’t a magic solution, and isn’t always for everyone. Research is showing us that ‘talking therapies’ work best when two things happen:
  1. the person receiving the counselling (‘the client’) is committed to coming and wants to change things or do things differently
  2. and that the client and counsellor have a good working relationship and get on well
Effective counselling can help people to
  • be supported through difficult times
  • understand themselves better
  • share worries
  • approach their relationships differently
  • like themselves more!
Sometimes it can be the wrong time to try to start counselling, particularly if you are homeless or have housing problems, are using drugs a lot or if life is too chaotic to settle to the commitment involved in coming every week. These might be issues that are best supported through the drop-in or specialist agencies.

Read what some young people say about their experience of counselling in our Feedback section.
How many sessions will I have?
We offer between 10 to 15 sessions. When you first meet your counsellor you will discuss how many sessions you will have, and make a contract. We will have sent you out a form before you come asking you about the things you want to focus on in counselling, and this will help you and your counsellor decide how long you will work together. Castlegate can’t offer open ended counselling because of the high demand for the service; however some people return to us for new contracts of counselling. There is no limit to the number of times you can do this while you are in our age range – although we do recommend at least four or five months break between contracts.
Will the counsellors talk about me to other workers in Castlegate?
Confidentiality is a very important part of why counselling is effective. When people know they can trust their counsellor, it frees them up to talk about what’s on their mind. Some young people are clients of the Drop In, Careers advice and counselling. In this case, the counsellors won’t talk about any of the content of counselling sessions with other workers unless the client says it is ok to do that, or if there is a safety issue. See our confidentiality statement for more details.
What is the CORE questionnaire, and do I have to do it?
CORE stands for Clinical Outcomes and Routine Evaluation. It is a standard questionnaire that is used in a lot of health settings. We use it as a tool at the beginning, middle and end of the counselling to measure how the work is going and to see if things are improving for you. You counsellor will share the results with you, and may get in touch with your doctor (with your permission) if there is anything coming out of the questionnaire that it would be useful for them to know.

If you’d prefer not to do the questionnaire, just let the counsellor know.
I’m not 16 yet, but I’d like counselling. Where can I go?
It’s worth checking to see whether your school has a counsellor – a few of the York secondary schools do have a service. You could talk to your doctor about what you’d like or you could contact Relate who have young people’s counsellors: They are based at
14 Pavement, York, YO1 9UP. Tel: 01904 625971.