Ben's story

  • Read how Ben used counselling when he got stuck with his dissertation.

    This story might help you get a feel for what goes on in counselling. It is based on a typical situation, but Ben isn't a real person. We can't give you a real example because we are a confidential service. 

    Ben was in the final semester of his 3rd year. He really wanted to get a good grade and was on target to get a 2:1 but seemed to have hit a bad patch.

    • He couldn't concentrate or find any motivation to finish his dissertation.
    • He was feeling increasingly anxious and desperate.
    • His didn't feel like eating much and he couldn't get to sleep.
    • He was avoiding going into lectures and was behind in his assignments.

    Not studying

    Every time Ben tried to work he ended up staring at the computer for hours, but unable to write anything. Eventually he would distract himself with Facebook or by playing computer games late into the night. This continued day after day, and Ben became increasingly panicky. Everything was mounting up, and yet he did nothing.

    With Ben so behind in his work, his Academic Advisor recommended that he contact the Counselling Service. Ben couldn't really see how that would help, but he was desperate.

    Calming down

    Ben told the counsellor how anxious and desperate he felt. To his surprise, he felt better after just acknowledging his feelings to someone else. The counsellor also gave Ben some relaxation strategies to help with his anxiety.

    By the next week, when he came to his second appointment, Ben felt less anxious. This helped him think more clearly, and he used the session to form a realistic study plan. This included meeting with his Academic Adviser, visiting Upgrade, having a sensible timetable for the rest of his work, and ideas about how he would stop himself wasting time on the computer.

    Reaching understanding

    Although he was studying better, in the third appointment Ben decided to continue counselling to examine in more depth what was causing his study block. He recognised that he was anxious about leaving university and entering “the real world of work.” University seemed safe. He had a good social life, with his mates only minutes away. Ben was also questioning if he could get a job. And, even if he did, he wondered if he would be any good.

    No wonder he was finding it hard to concentrate on his dissertation. It meant the ending was coming all too close!

    Ben also realised he was putting pressure on himself to “prove himself to his father.” He had always had a difficult relationship with his father and had often felt he was a disappointment to him. Even his choice of career didn't get his father's approval. Ben had believed he must be very successful in his career – or he would be a disappointment yet again. Counselling gave Ben a chance to challenge these beliefs, regain his confidence, and make his own decisions about what he wanted in life.

    Getting back on track

    After 6 sessions Ben felt less anxious. He was able to work again. He had occasional unproductive days, but he could get through them and work well the next day. He went on to complete his dissertation. He felt more confident about leaving university, and was even excited about entering the next stage of his life.