Personal counselling: frequently asked questions

What is personal counselling?
What issues do students bring to personal counselling?
How does personal counselling work?
How soon can I be seen by an Office of Health Professions Student Affairs (OHPSA) personal counsellor?
Will other people know that I am meeting with a personal counsellor?

Q. What is personal counselling?

Personal counselling involves you and a counsellor working together to achieve your goals for change. The counselling process varies depending on the personalities of the counsellor and the client, and the particular concerns you bring forward. There are many different therapeutic approaches our counsellors may use to address the challenges you might hope to address, but the most important factors in the effectiveness of counselling are your honest and active engagement in the process and the quality of the relationship between you and the counsellor, particularly whether you feel understood by your counsellor. For counselling to be most helpful, you are also encouraged to commit to working in your everyday life on the things you talk about with your counsellor.

Q. What issues do students bring to personal counselling?

Students in the health professions come to OHPSA’s personal counsellors with a very diverse range of concerns. There is no problem too small or too large to address with our personal counsellors. You do not need to be in a crisis in order to benefit from personal counselling. If you sense that it might be helpful to confidentially explore and reflect on your situation or difficulties with someone trained in listening to and facilitating those reflections, then please feel encouraged to meet with one of our personal counsellors. Common issues include:

  • depression/depressed mood
  • anxiety
  • interpersonal/relationship difficulties
  • difficulties in self-esteem and/or identity
  • stress
  • adjustment/transition
  • addictions
  • grief and loss
  • past or current emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • balancing professional and personal priorities
  • loneliness and homesickness
  • family issues
  • attention and concentration difficulties
  • issues about sex and sexuality
  • disordered eating/body image
  • self-harm/cutting/risky behaviour
  • problems with sleep
  • physical health issues
  • anger
  • acute concern on behalf of another student


Q. How does personal counselling work? 

Personal counselling helps individuals to better understand the specific concern they are experiencing, identify their strengths and to determine the directions they need to take in order to address the concern. Personal counselling also facilitates greater understanding of difficult emotions, relationships and behaviours, and increased ability to manage and overcome these challenges. Gaining therapeutic insight into what might be your problematic patterns very often strengthens your capacity to live in new and more flexible ways. 

Counselling can be both reassuring/supportive as well as challenging. Since it often involves discussing difficult or troubling aspects of your life, you may experience uncomfortable feelings, and may even find that as you work on your concerns, things first feel worse before they feel better. However, while there are no guarantees of what you will experience, personal counselling very often leads to solutions to specific problems, better relationships, and significant reductions in feelings of distress.

Q. How soon can I be seen by an OHPSA personal counsellor?

Daytime, evening and lunchtime appointments are available in order to accommodate the needs of students in a timely manner. Urgent issues are addressed immediately. 

You can schedule an appointment by contacting the OHPSA office at 416.978.2764 or using the online form. 

Q. Will other people know that I am meeting with a personal counsellor?

OHPSA’s personal counselling services are confidential. Neither information shared in the counselling process nor the fact of your participation in personal counselling will be shared with the Faculty of Medicine or anyone else, except by your request, or as required by law. Your personal counsellor will review our confidentiality policy with you at the beginning of your first session.