What is counselling?

Counselling provides a safe and confidential space for you to talk about your concerns. A counsellor will not give you their opinions or advice, and they can’t prescribe medication. However, they will help you to explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and to find your own solutions to help you cope with your problems. Counselling at Essex is short-term, and can help you engage in your studies and in university life.

Our student counselling service is provided by Validium, our external partner organisation. All counsellors work to recognised standards within the profession and are registered or accredited with professional bodies.

How to access counselling

If you feel that counselling might be beneficial for you, you can visit our Drop-in service and discuss this with an adviser in confidence, speak with your caseworker if you have one, or access the counselling form via My Essex. Once your form has been assessed by the Counselling Manager, it will be sent to Validium, after which you will receive an email explaining how to contact Validium for your assessment. The purpose of an assessment is to see if Counselling is the best option for you at the time or if there are other services within the Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Service (SWIS) or external agencies that might be better suited to your needs.

If Validium feels that you would benefit from short-term counselling, you will usually be able to begin your counselling sessions within three weeks from the date of your assessment.

It is important to think about what support you need while you are waiting for counselling or even after you have completed your sessions. Here is a list of services open to students:

  • Case work: Ongoing individually tailored support, with a specialist adviser
  • Drop-in: A general service for students seeking advice and support for personal, welfare, emotional or mental health issues. You can request an in-person, telephone or Zoom appointment with a wellbeing assessor using the form
  • SilverCloud: An online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) resource offering a range of programmes on mental health, wellbeing, and long-term conditions. Students have the option of requesting a supporter from the Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity (SWIS) team who can guide and encourage them through the programmes. To learn more about SilverCloud, watch this video.
  • Togetherall is a safe, online peer-to-peer mental health community that empowers individuals to anonymously seek and provide support 24/7. To sign up, go to togetherall.com and use your student email address to register as a member of a university or college
  • Student Wellbeing Support Line: A 24 hour phone line for University of Essex students, provided by Validium. The number is 0800 970 5020 (outside UK: +44 141 271 7168)

Longer term counselling

If you are thinking of long-term counselling, or would like to access specialist services, you might like to contact local, external organisations in Colchester, Southend or Loughton. Here are some suggestions for you to explore. It is important that you let them know that you are seeking support through their low fee services.

This list is for information only. We cannot endorse specific services so it is important that you get as much information as you need before you choose where to access counselling.


  • Break Even provides free counselling for those with gambling-related problems.
  • CARA (Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse) offers support to those who have experienced sexual violence and abuse.
  • Life-Force offers low cost counselling, from £8.50 per session, with advanced trainees.
  • The Outhouse offers a low-cost service that is open to those within the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Stockwell Centre offers a low-fee scheme that is delivered by affiliate counsellors.
  • Turner Centre: has a low fee scheme for £10 per session with mature student therapists.
  • Colchester Institute: The service is provided by trainee counsellors. Fees are £5 per session.
  • Therapy for You can offer free online and face-to-face counselling.



  • Hope Centre Counselling Loughton (HCCL) offers counselling with trainees at £25 per session. No one is turned away for their inability to pay so you can discuss any concerns with them.
  • CCIWBS offers donation-based counselling for pre-bereavement, bereavement and other types of loss.
  • Worth Unlimited (Spark): Counselling is available for young people up to the age of 23. There is no charge for sessions, but donations can be made if possible.

Confidentiality and accessibility

The Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Service is bound by a strict confidentiality policy (.pdf). Our partner organisation, Validium, only employs counsellors who are registered or accredited with appropriate professional bodies, including the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).

Information relating to the content of counselling sessions, including session notes, will not be seen by anyone outside the counselling service (see 'Confidentiality Policy' above for exceptional circumstances). If you use the service, you may have the right to access any records kept on you under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018.


Have you used counselling or any of our other services in Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity? Complete our SWIS Student Survey for your chance to win a £5 SU Voucher 

Student Services Hub
Need help?

If you need any further help and advice, please contact or visit the Student Services Hub who will be happy to assist you.