That time I went to counselling: Demystifing Adverse Circumstances

At the end of the second semester of my second year of uni, I was struggling. I had some fairly unpleasant family drama come up in the middle of the semester and, as a result, I was feeling isolated and unmotivated which seriously impacted my work. I had dropped out of one course, had barely managed a credit in two others and was dangerously close to failing the fourth. The further along the semester went, the more hopeless and stressed I became and I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to salvage my GPA with a fail on my transcript.

Desperate, I sent an email to the lecturer of the course saying I was worried about failing. I explained the situation and asked if there was anything I could do to make up some marks in the final assessment just so I could get a pass. I mentioned some of what had been going on in my personal life but I clearly remember typing “I know this is something I can’t apply for Adverse Circumstances for.”

The lecturer’s response was pretty simple. I definitely should apply for Adverse Circumstances.

Of course, that was another hurdle. I’d never applied for Adverse Circumstances before. As far as I knew, none of my friends or classmates had either. If they had, we’d certainly never talked about it. But the information I needed was out there – the ‘How do I apply for Adverse Circumstances?’ page of AskUON outlines the process and explains the steps it takes to lodge an Adverse Circumstances application.

First, you should check out the Adverse Circumstances Procedures and Policy documents. Specifically, you will want to see if the reason why you’re applying for Adverse Circumstances are covered under the policy. Acceptable grounds for an Adverse Circumstances application are health issues (both physical and psychological), compassionate grounds such as a death in the family, hardship, trauma and unavoidable commitments like jury duty and military service. Your situation may cover more than one of these. I applied under both health and hardship grounds.

Once you’ve read over the policies and worked out which grounds are right for you, you can start the application online through the Adverse Circumstances app of your myUON portal. For a successful application you need to provide some documents that support your claim, and this can be a little confusing if it’s your first time applying for Adverse Circumstances. For unavoidable commitments, it is normally pretty simple. A jury duty summons is a clear piece of supporting evidence for your application. If you were physically ill the day of the exam, you can get a doctor’s certificate. For something like a hardship, however, it can be a little less clear.

I was able to get a supporting document by going in to see a Student Support Advisor through the UON Counselling Service. Student Support Advisors are essentially the triage phase of UON’s support and counselling system. They listen to what is happening and help work out what kind of assistance you need. According to the Adverse Circumstance page of UON Counselling’s website, they are also able to provide your supporting  documents for your application in some situations but will also point you in the direction of other services on-campus that can you help find those documents. After you’ve uploaded your supporting documents and submitted your application, you just have to wait to receive an email with the result which will let you know if you’ve been given an extension on an assessment task or are able to re-sit an exam.

The Student Support Advisors can do much more than just help you with your Adverse Circumstances application. They can also help you get in contact with resources around UON to help you deal with the situation that led you to lodge the application in the first place. In my case, through the Advisor I was able to book some counselling sessions.

So what was the counselling session actually like?

I cannot stress enough how useful and beneficial counselling sessions are, even if you’re not applying for Adverse Circumstances. If you’re having a tough time at uni or having some issues in your personal life, taking advantage of the free and confidential counselling at UON is one of the best things you can do. While counselling can be a little uncomfortable at times, you can end up talking about some pretty personal thoughts and feelings; it is definitely worthwhile.

If you’re concerned that going to see a counsellor means you have a mental health condition, don’t be. My counsellor told me in our first session that you don’t need a diagnosed mental illness to see a counsellor and that seeing a counsellor doesn’t mean you have a mental illness. Counselling and therapy can be useful for everyone, no matter what your mental health is.

For me, I found it really helped to explain some of my behaviour and some of the anxieties I have and develop strategies to help me manage them. It really taught me a lot about myself and my place in my family and my group of friends that let me go forward with a bit more awareness of how things affected me. It certainly didn’t cure me of the anxieties and neuroses that I deal with daily but it has certainly better equipped me to face them.

Counselling sessions at UON can be in person and face-to-face, like mine were, but that is not the only option. UON also offers online counselling over Skype if you can’t make it into campus or if an online option will make you more comfortable. Between certain hours, drop-in Skype sessions are available that don’t need to be organised in advance. If you’re not ready to see a counsellor just yet, the UON Counselling blog also has plenty of information sheets and resources with advice on how to deal with issues like anxiety or maintaining healthy relationships.

The Adverse Circumstances process and the Counselling system at UON are easy to access and extremely useful. For me, it meant not only getting my academics back on track but also helping me with my overall mental health. There’s also nothing wrong with seeking help and going to see a counsellor. We all need some help sometimes and applying for adverse circumstances and seeing a counsellor are just some good ways to take care of yourself and make sure that your uni experience, and your life in general, can be as enjoyable as possible.