Counselling

Counselling

School counselling is available to all students and parents/caregivers at the school. Parents and caregivers can phone with concerns about their children, and that can just be to ask for some advice or to arrange for their child to meet the counsellor (phone 9208 7200). In most years about 10% of students we see are referred by a parent or caregiver.

Many students refer themselves. During an average year we talk with somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of all students enrolled, with a majority having one or two sessions. Students can have a chat by talking to the counsellor directly, sending an email, or asking at the office.

We can tell you about counselling options outside the school if that is what you prefer. These extend from adolescent and family counselling services through to specialist adolescent mental health services, paediatricians, and other professionals. See Where to Get Help for more information.

Counselling is not just about problems. It can help students decide on their goals, increase their motivation, learn to manage their studies, and handle their stress, all with the aim of helping them to make the most of their time at school by building on their existing strengths.

Counsellors are aware of the importance of privacy and we take care to talk with students at the beginning about what cannot be kept confidential due to risk of harm or child protection reporting requirements. Almost everything can remain private, and if that is not possible we negotiate about who needs to be told and what they need to know. In some cases students agree that if certain people know about their circumstances – including parents/caregivers – more support can be offered.

There’s a section about counselling in the information pages of the student diary, along with a list of some useful websites and phone helplines for both students and parents/caregivers.

Keep an eye out for Counsellor's Corner in each edition of the school newsletter (available on this website) for news and views on parenting, adolescence, and schooling from the counselling perspective. You'll also find a collection of articles at the Counsellor's Corner Blog.

 

Mr Martin Graham
School Counsellor

Learn about some of the other services available to young people and their families apart from regular school counselling.


Emergencies

A young person who is at risk of suicide or significant self-harm needs to be assessed and helped to keep themselves safe as a matter of urgency.

Go to the emergency department of the Children’s Hospital at Westmead (up to 16 years) or Blacktown Hospital. Ensure that a follow-up plan involving mental health professionals is in place and is actually implemented. Young people in this situation need to be followed-up within days, not weeks.

Clarify what you can do to keep your young person safe.

Consider letting the school know what has happened so that appropriate support and consideration can be given, while maintaining student privacy.


Student Services Team – Catholic Education Office

An intermediate counselling option, half-in/half-out of school, is available as part of enrolment in a Parramatta Diocese Catholic school. Families have free access to staff from the Catholic Education Office’s Student Services Team. Referrals are usually made through the school, and in each case two outside staff are involved: one is a teacher consultant who works with the student and the school to get things back on track, and the other is a family counsellor who will see the student and family for confidential counselling so that home settles down too.


Outside the school

Sometimes you might prefer that your child’s problems be dealt with in a different setting, separate from the school, so the information below concerns some of the other services available to young people and their families apart from regular school counselling.


At the doctor

One step in assisting your child could be to take them for a medical check-up to see if the current difficulties have any organic causes. The doctor may suggest a referral to a paediatrician (a doctor who specialises in the medical and behavioural issues of children) or to a psychiatrist (a doctor who specialises in mental illness) for an assessment.

The doctor may also prepare a mental health plan for a referral to a professional who is registered with Medicare to provide counselling. These professionals could include psychologists (who are not doctors but have up to six years of university training), social workers, or mental health nurses, providing up to 10 counselling sessions per year. Medicare will pay a scheduled fee and the client will pay any gap, unless the professional bulk-bills in which case there is no charge. Some private health insurance policies rebate psychology services.

Medicare will also rebate up to 10 group counselling sessions per year, in addition to or instead of individual sessions.

You can ask the doctor to recommend someone, or do your research first and ask the doctor to refer you to the professional you have chosen (and probably have spoken to on the phone to get a sense of whether this is the right person for your situation). The Australian Psychological Society provides a “Find a Psychologist” service that is very useful.

Another option you may have is to use the Employee Assistance Program if your employer provides one, as these programs usually cover immediate family as well.


Organisations

Most services have intake officers whose job is to talk with you when you phone so that you can decide if the service offered is what you need. They can also suggest alternatives. Where services charge fees it is usually on a sliding scale according to your ability to pay. Most services also have waiting lists.


In the public sector

The NSW Mental Health Line (1800 011 511) is a 24-hour service designed to connect callers with the right care for people of all ages in NSW.

NSW Health provides up to 12 sessions of free child, family and adolescent counselling for people who live, work or study in the Blacktown, Doonside and Mt Druitt Local Government Areas. Phone the Mental Health Line for a referral.

NSW Health also runs the Blacktown Early Access Team (BEAT, accessed through the Mental Health Line). They see 12-24-year-olds living in the Blacktown Local Government area with major mental health problems. For children under 12, the Paediatric Mental Health Team is on the same number.

The Western Area Adolescent Team (WAAT, 9881 1230) at Mt Druitt has a focus on hard-to-reach, marginalised young people, including those who are homeless.

The Transcultural Mental Health Service can help people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to access mental health services, from childhood to adulthood, in a variety of languages (1800 648 911).


Non-government agencies

In the non-government sector, headspace at Mt Druitt (8887 5600) and at Castle Hill (8820 9995) is a ‘one-stop shop’ for young people aged 12-25 years, and their families, providing easy access to a broad range of health services including physical health care, mental health care, drug and alcohol services, and counselling. It is a consortium of agencies led by Uniting Care Mental Health, and sees young people who are eligible for referral to a psychologist under a mental health plan prepared by a doctor at headspace.

Several non-government agencies specialise in working with teens and their families. Many are based in Parramatta, Norwest, Blacktown or Mt Druitt. Why might you choose family counsellingRAPS (part of Relationships Australia, 9890 1500) and Unifam Counselling and Mediation (part of Uniting Care, 8830 0700) will work with the family members who live together on all kinds of issues such as arguments at home, family violence, fostering and adoption, living in a stepfamily, school problems, appropriate limits and consequences, etc.

CatholicCare Social Services, (9933 0222 - formerly known as Centacare) offers relationship and family counselling, while Blacktown Reconnect (9832 3934) also works with young people and their families. 

Interrelate at Rouse Hill (8882 7850) has a long history (since 1926!) of working to strengthen family relationships.

 

University clinics are another option. They often charge reduced fees for therapy by psychologists-in-training who are supervised by senior psychologists. See the Psychology Clinic at Western Sydney University or Macquarie University's Centre for Emotional Health.
 

 


On the phone

Parents/carers of children 0-18-years-old can contact a 24-hour parenting helpline run by CatholicCare Sydney (formerly Centacare Sydney) on 1300 1300 52 to talk about any parenting issue.

Where violence or abuse is occurring, including from adolescents to their parents/carers, free counselling is available through the Australian Government’s 1800RESPECT service (1800 737 732). 

More helplines for students and their parents/carers are listed in the front pages of the Student Diary.


Going Private

In the private sector there are many choices of counsellors and therapists. You should ensure that anyone you consult has the appropriate qualifications and is a member of a recognised professional association.


Further Assistance

The NSW government funds the Family Referral Service (1300 403 373) which helps people find the right service in their local area for their needs, including family support, drug and alcohol treatment, mental health, post separation, parenting education, respite care and so on. Sometimes they can make a referral on your behalf if you want.

The Australian Government's Health Direct allows searching for counselling and psychology services by location and by preferences such as bulk billing.
 
Head to Health makes it easy to search for help delivered online rather than face-to-face, with links to resources, forums, apps, and email/chat counselling.
 
Finding the right help can be challenging. If you are unsure what to do, you are welcome to contact the school counsellor to help point you in the right direction.
 

Counsellor's Corner is an occasional blog providing information on a wide range of adolescent issues and topical weblinks. Most posts have been previously published in the College Newsletter. We invite you to provide your feedback and thoughts on any of these issues.

View the blog posts

Counsellor's Corner is an occasional blog providing information on a wide range of adolescent issues and topical weblinks. Most posts have been previously published in the College Newsletter. We invite you to provide your feedback and thoughts on any of these issues.

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In news sure to upset those who think that ‘the dismal science’ of economics is narrowly focused on arcane measures of dubious reliability based on an inadequate model of how humans behave, some researchers from the London School of Economics have been wondering about what makes for a woolly thing like adult life satisfaction. Specifically, they wonder about which childhood predictors make a difference. Seriously, the question matters – what makes for adult wellbeing? Every parent/carer wants to see their child flourish and turn into a happy adult.

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A day doesn’t go by without bullying of some kind being in the news. We usually focus on helping the victims – but what about the bullies? What can be done for them besides punishment? And, most worryingly, could my child be a bully? Bullying is too important to ignore. Young people who bully others are more likely to do poorly in school, turn to violence as a way to deal with problems, damage property or steal, abuse drugs or alcohol, and get in trouble with the law. So what can you do?

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We’re all aware that young people experience high levels of depression and anxiety. Hopefully we also are aware that these problems are treatable, if not always easily cured. But how can these problems be prevented, or at least ‘headed off at the pass’ before they take hold? There are some good answers to this question. There are things parents/carers can do, based on research evidence and clinical experience.

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Teachers and parents/carers can help children by emphasising effort rather than ability, praising success rather than criticising failure, and maintaining positive relationships within and between school and home. When we fail in some area of life, as is bound to happen, a bit of self-compassion wouldn’t go astray. In the Year of Mercy (=Compassion), we can acknowledge that failure is part of who we are. Instead of beating ourselves up we can then accept our messy selves as still worthy of love.

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Your child’s end-of-year report is in your hands. It’s not as good as you expected. Maybe not as good as they expected either. How should you respond?

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Does a child’s upbringing make a difference to whether they develop an addiction? Yes, of course. But why? Population studies confirm that the degree of addiction people have is clearly related to the degree of trauma experienced in their childhoods.

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Gabor Mate, physician and criminologist in Vancouver treating drug addicts, places great importance on attunement between parent/carer and child, where the adult communicates to the child that their feeling is understood, and thereby eases their emotional pain.

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School Counsellor, Mr Martin Graham looks into all the tough topics that come along in conversation with your children and provides resources for assistance.

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St Benedict in his Rule speaks of ‘listening with the ear of the heart’, implying that the real gold of listening assumes the other has something important and valuable to say; it is deeply respectful. Mr Graham discusses ideas for good listening and provides further sources for consideration.

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Young people complain that their parents/carers don’t listen to them. What’s new! That’s been happening forever, hasn’t it? Kids can feel unheard when their parents/carers don’t agree with them. Of course listening does not equal agreeing. But it doesn’t equal a lot of other things either.

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When hearts are closed, communication is impossible. When we think we know what the other person feels or believes without actually checking, communication is limited, and the seeds of discord can grow. When we are so full of our own agenda, there’s no room for another perspective.

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Free or reasonably priced help is out there! In this Corner we’ll look at three services parents/carers can take advantage of, two of them at Bella Vista and one online.

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One of the challenges of raising teenagers is about helping them deal with their emerging sexuality. If having ‘the talk’ was ever enough in the past, it certainly isn’t enough today.

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What’s it about? It’s based on the idea that people become depressed if key interpersonal relationships are not working well. By focusing on the problem area in therapy the client is helped to improve their relationships and so resolve their depression.

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Your child comes to you and says they’re worried about one of their friends. How do you respond? As a parent/carer, you are the person most likely to be approached. Read on for helpful tips and advice from Mr. Graham for handling and approaching these kinds of situations.

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In one way, everybody is new to our new school name. Though the name change takes place at a particular point in time, growing into the change and feeling comfortable in the changed identity takes longer.

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“Time flies”. This year is almost gone. What changes have you seen in your children? What growth? What stumbles and mistakes? What challenges have been met? What remains to be learned in the years to come?

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Mr. Graham looks into the common patterns, actions and coping mechanisms of boys and girls when feeling down. Although girls are feeling down twice as often as boys, the girls talk about it a lot more! It appears boys are “asking for help” through their behaviour instead.

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Mr. Graham discusses how children are affected if a close relative or friend has cancer and looks at the services available to assist in handling these situations.

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Who'd want to be a parent/carer! Oops, too late... Of course there are delightful moments, fun moments, warm connections, growth and maturity to be enjoyed too. It’s too easy, and not really helpful, just to focus mainly on troubles. Having said that, here we go!

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Any member of the family may be dealing with a mental illness that may also be affecting those around them, including the children. It is important that individuals and their families receive all the support possible.

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Did you know a third of high school students sleep talk at least once a week?! Mr Graham looks further into interesting sleep facts and research.

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How many people self harm, and why do they do it?

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