The Counselling Centre

The Counselling Centre


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The Counselling Centre provides a broad range of confidential services all free of charge to students currently registered and attending classes at Saint Mary's.


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We offer individual personal counselling, academic & life skills coaching and consultations. Our team of professionals will help you meet your academic and personal goals. We understand how stressful university life can be and how making small changes can have a huge impact. Staff are generalists in their training with experience working with University students.

We try our best to respond as quickly as possible to meet the needs of our students. We are not an emergency clinic therefore we will refer all emergencies to the QEII Emergency Department (19 years old and over), located on Robie Street or the IWK Emergency Department (under 19 years old), located on South Street.

Our hours during the academic year are 8:30am-12:00pm, 1:00pm-4:30pm and during the summer 8:30am-12:00pm, 1:00pm-4:00pm.

When students first come to The Counselling Centre they are required to complete an intake form which takes 5-10 minutes. Students who have never used the services of The Counselling Centre have the opportunity to drop in for their first session, in order to be seen immediately when it best suits their schedule. You will meet with our Intake & Programs Coordinator for approximately 30 minutes to discuss your concerns and options. Drop in times are as follows: Monday/Thursday/Friday: 1pm-4pm and Tuesday/Wednesday: 8:30am-11:30am.

All new students for Academic & Life Skills Coaching also have an opportunity for a drop in session first. Drop in times for this service are offered Monday: 8:30am-11:30am and Tuesday: 1pm-4pm.

Note: Drop in times are subject to change. Students are seen on a first come-first served basis. Subsequent appointments for Counselling and Coaching will be scheduled for set times.

Returning students can book an appointment for personal counselling and/or academic & life skills coaching by calling 902-420-5615, emailing counselling@smu.ca or dropping by our office, 4th Floor, Student Centre (turn left once you get off the elevator) or you can book online.

Morneau Shepell offers 24/7 free, confidential phone, email and web counselling to Saint Mary's students. If you are an emergency or crisis after hours, please contact Morneau-Shepell at 1-855-649-8641 and tell them you need immediate assistance. This service is confidential and you will speak with a Counsellor right away if you are in crisis.

To view Morneau Shepell's new student support website visit http://mystudentsupport.com/ and be sure to check out the articles on: Managing stress with yoga, mental health myths, etc.

What is Peer Support?

Peer Support happens in a relationship between people who have experiences in common. This could be a mental illness, stress or anxiety, a difficult time in life, or university adjustment. Peer Supporters offer their fellow students emotional and social support as they too have struggled.  This support is grounded in hope, empowerment, and recovery.

Peer Support focuses on health and recovery rather than on illness and disability. Supporters can help individuals move towards a greater sense of self-confidence and wellbeing.

All students are welcome to visit a Peer Supporter during drop-in hours. Peer Support can be an additional resource from students already seeking treatment as well as a safe, confidential space for students to talk to a trained peer.

Who are my Peer Supporters?

Peer Supporters are students who have experience dealing with mental health concerns. These students are trained within the Stay Connected Mental Health Project and The Counselling Centre to support their peers through active listening, goal-setting, and resource referral. As students, Supporters understand how stressful university life can be. Peer Supporters are here to help with a lot of mental health concerns including managing stress, coping strategies, relationship problems, and referrals to other important resources.

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For more information on mental health and life balance please visit http://ourhealthyminds.com/.

Healthy Minds is now available for free for iPhone, iPad, iPad mini and iPod Touch through the App Store or through healthymindsapp.ca and difd.com, where printable promotional materials are also available.

Transitions is a free mental health booklet. To view the booklet please click the link http://teenmentalhealth.org/toolbox/transitions/ .

The Counselling Centre has various mental health initiatives we have developed which include: how to help a student in distress, SMU Talks for Faculty and Staff, WellTrack an online mood tracker for students and much more.

SMU offers some great InBalance Wellness programs. Please visit http://www.smu.ca/campus-life/inbalance-wellness-program to view upcoming events/sessions being held.


January Thoughts from The Counselling Centre

The “Winter Blues”

Hello Saint Mary’s students – Happy 2017!

A fresh start, renewed optimism – the new year is often a time that we hope to build on a surge in motivation (hence, the increase in gym memberships and diet plans in January).

However, for a significant number of people are we also entering one of the more challenging periods of the year. Although Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD - more commonly known as the “winter blues”) is not a disorder by itself, it is viewed as a specifier of other mood disorders. For example, someone may be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with prominent seasonal patterns.

This month, The Counselling Centre looks at the causes, symptoms, and treatments for SAD.

When does SAD occur?

Although SAD can occur in the spring and summer, this is quite rare. Far more common is a trend toward more depressed mood episodes in the late fall and winter with remittance in the spring.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

In addition to depressed mood, the symptoms of SAD include:

- decreased energy

- hypersomnia

- over-eating

- weight gain

- increased cravings for carbohydrates

Note: Although depressed mood is common in SAD, it is not always present. For example, a significant decrease in energy and increased need for sleep (even without depressed mood) can signify an episode of SAD.

Who is most at risk for developing SAD?

- Those of us who live at higher latitudes (if you are wondering, Halifax is at 44° 38' North)

- Young adults

- Females

How common is SAD?

SAD is a relatively new addition to the list of mood disorders and as such, the research is still developing. Prevalence estimates range from 2 – 10 % of Canadians.

What causes SAD?

Although a number of neuro-chemical causes have been proposed for SAD (e.g., deficient levels of serotonin), it is widely believed that the lack of light during the winter months is responsible for the increase in winter blues.

Treatments for SAD

Treatments for SAD include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (available at Counselling Services) as well as other more experimental interventions – most of which can be directly initiated by the person who is experiencing SAD. These interventions include:

- “Full-Spectrum” light therapy. This intervention involves regular (usually daily) exposure to a specially designed “light box” which replicates natural sunlight. Although it is possible to visit expensive clinics for this treatment, home versions of the light box are much less expensive (less than $150) and most people find this approach far more convenient.

-Dawn-Simulation is often used in combination with light therapy. It is a device that replaces your alarm clock by gradually increasing the light in your room as you wake. This provides a more soothing and natural waking experience and may be helpful in alleviating SAD. These devices can be picked up locally in Halifax for less than $100.

- Regularly scheduled time outside during the winter – especially on sunny days.

- Antidepressants. Contact Saint Mary’s Health Services or your family doctor for more information.

- Vitamin D supplementation. This is a relatively new development, but there is some research suggesting that increasing vitamin D levels helps prevent and alleviate SAD (especially in combination with other treatments).

Do you often feel down during the winter months? The Counselling Centre may be able to help. To book a consultation, please give us a call at 902-420-5615 or drop by on the 4th floor of the Student Centre.

Best wishes for 2017!