We are here to listen to you and to help you manage any problematic situation you might be facing. We can talk with you for up to 50 minutes at a time about whatever is concerning you. We will listen in a respectful way, without making judgements. You can use us as a safe person to vent to, or we can help you to review your problem and talk about what options you have in dealing with it.
Often it can help simply to get things off your chest or to know that someone is genuinely willing to listen and take time to understand what's on your mind. Most often talking things through is enough; sometimes it may lead you to seek more specialised help. We can help to signpost services who might help, in collaboration with you.
We are available by appointment Monday to Wednesday, at 4:30pm and 5:30pm.
If you are unable to meet at these times, please contact email@example.com and we can work something out.
Can you give me therapy?
You can talk to us about any kind of problem you like. We are here to provide you with informal encouragement and support, but we will not be able to provide you with the sort of support you would get from a professional counsellor or therapist. If you feel you need more than this, we can help you in accessing other services.
How often can I see you?
Most of the students who come to see us will only see us once or twice in the whole time they are at Oxford. Sometimes students see us on a more regular basis, but our availability is limited and so normally we are unable to meet a student more than once a fortnight. If you want to see us more often than that, please raise it so that we can discuss what's best for you.
Can I see you right now?
It is unlikely we can arrange to meet you immediately, but we will always do our best to make time to see you as soon as possible.
Can you email my tutor/housemate/partner?
We can give you appropriate support to help you resolve the situation if you are having problems with your tutors, other students, partner, or housemates, but we can't act instead of you. Often we can help facilitate a solution, but we are not part of the College's disciplinary system so we cannot require students to meet with us. We can support you in thinking about your next steps, but formal complaints against other students are handled by the decanal team.
I need money/housing/medical advice. Can you help?
We can direct you to the best person to contact if you are in need of such things, but we are only able to give your support and advice. We have no powers to grant funds or to arrange emergency accommodation for you. We are not trained health professionals and cannot provide you with medical advice.
If you are experiencing urgent distress, the Porters may ask the duty welfare fellow (either the Salvesen or Cox Fellow) to come and speak with you. They may do this because you have requested to speak with someone or because they are concerned for your immediate welfare. In these situations, the duty welfare fellow will assess the situation and take appropriate action. Most of the time, this involves a supportive conversation. Sometimes, the duty welfare fellow will decide that a supportive conversation isn't appropriate there and then, or that it would be better to wait until the student has had some rest. In these cases the duty welfare fellow will check that the student is safe and follow up at a later time.
Please be aware that we are not an emergency service. If you feel the situation is an emergency crisis rather than urgent, then please contact 999. An emergency crisis is when you might present an immediate risk to yourself which could include attempted suicide, serious self-harm or harm to others, or where you might find yourself in situations where you feel you lack a sense of self-control or personal responsibility and safety. A supportive conversation could be helpful when the immediate crisis is over and there is space to reflect and explore.
If you need help and you are in College, do contact the Porters' Lodge. They can provide first aid, arrange for a taxi to take you to A&E or call an ambulance. In cases where an ambulance is needed, you should call 999 as soon as possible, but it is helpful to notify the Porters too so that they can direct the paramedics to you quickly.
When people are experiencing difficulty, most often they turn to people who are known to them. The support that a friend or familiar face can provide can often make the difference when someone is struggling.
Sometimes you would like to have a conversation with your friend about their well-being, but don't know where to start. Talking with one of the Cox and Salvesen Fellows can be helpful in planning that conversation, thinking about how best to support your friend, and finding out what services you can encourage them to access.
...And Looking After Yourself
Supporting someone in need can sometimes be challenging, especially when they aren't willing to get appropriate help. It's important that you look after yourself and keep hold of your own priorities. Do check in with yourself: are you still keeping up with your usual hobbies and making time for the relationships that are important to you? If the answer is no, then it may be that your friend is relying more heavily on you than you can cope with.
All relationships need boundaries to be healthy. Remember, you are not supposed to help with everything. It isn't being selfish to prioritise your own needs. Remember the Oxygen Mask Rule: on airplanes you're asked to ensure your own mask is on before assisting others.
Often being clear about what you can and can't take on can be the most helpful thing you can do for a friend in need. It may prompt them to make different, healthier choices. If you would like support in maintaining healthy boundaries, especially when helping someone in need, then it may help to talk through with one of the Cox and Salvesen Fellows.
Also remember that nobody expects you to take on something that makes you feel uncomfortable or brings up difficult feelings for you. The best response in those situations is to protect yourself and be honest with your friend when something is too much for you to take on. Again, the Cox and Salvesen Fellows can help you work out how to have this sort of conversation with a friend.
Urgent Situations Involving Friends
Occasionally students, who are experiencing difficulties looking after their friends, will ask for support from the Lodge. Please remember in these situations that the perspective of the duty welfare fellow may not be the one taken by a friend. The duty welfare fellow provides a different sort of support than a friend might give and so they may have different expectations of what is needed at the time. The duty welfare fellow can't be an alternative to the important boundary setting that needs to happen between friends when one is in need. Don't be surprised if, having checked that a student is safe for the night, the duty welfare fellow leaves the situation and follows up at a later time.
That said, the duty welfare fellow will never ask you to take on more than you can cope with. Be honest with us as we might make different decisions with different information. In turn, we will try to be clear with you about the limits to the support we can give so you can make informed choices.
(We do, however, expect you to take reasonable responsibility for one another. We would not, for example, ordinarily expect to look after a student who is drunk because their friends want to go back to the club or party.)
The website Student Minds has supportive resources concerning both having a supportive conversation with a friend and also looking after yourself. Look at the supportive resources available in the Welfare section of New College Library.
Sometimes students can experience disappointment when they have a meeting with a member of the welfare team. If a meeting hasn't worked for you, for whatever reason, it is helpful if you let the person you spoke to know. It might be that there is simply a difference in personalities, and the person will suggest that you meet with a different member of the team.
In such cases, we also ask that you reflect on what help you were expecting to receive and the way in which you asked for it. A supportive conversation is where someone listens to your experiences, offers empathy, asks you questions, and encourages you to think in new ways and reflect on your values. Supportive conversations are very effective, but there are limits to what they can achieve alone. Remember that your welfare begins and ends with you; we can support you and often help facilitate a solution, but the choices and the responsibility remain with you.
It is best practice and in your interest for us to make a note of the time and content of our conversation. We will tell you when we need to make notes during our conversation. When making notes, we will use our discretion and only record the bare minimum that is necessary, consistent with the seriousness of the case at hand. We do not include subjective judgements in our notes, not least because we are not clinically qualified to do so.
Where time allows and where appropriate, we will try to summarise our conversation so you are clear on how we will record it.
We operate within the College's confidentiality policy. This is available on the College website and we can explain to you any aspect to it you are uncertain of.
To ensure continuity of care and to provide effective support, the Senior Welfare team operates a shared confidentiality policy, which means we record notes in a secure system. "Shared" in this context does not mean we routinely pass on the entire content of our conversations with students, neither do members of the team review these notes unless it is appropriate or important to do so.
Where you are not comfortable with certain members of the welfare team knowing something you have disclosed, we will exercise sensitivity and discretion. Members of the welfare team are professional and will recuse themselves from certain conversation if the need arises.
If we think it will be in your best interest, or those of others, we may ask you to allow us to share information with relevant individuals within the College. We would do this with discretion and would always stick to the facts that are pertinent to the current situation. It is open to you to decline such requests and we will talk through with you the ways in which this may limit the support that can be provided.
Exceptions to Confidentiality
We will only share information with someone outside the Senior Welfare Team when we have a reason to worry for your or someone else's immediate safety or welfare. We will try to be honest with you when we need to pass on something you have disclosed. We will seek your consent where we can.
In keeping with best practice the Cox and Salvesen Fellows receive supervision from trained professional to support them in their work. This is an important safeguard for you and is comparable to the supervision that Peer Supporters and counsellors receive. Anything disclosed in such a setting is covered by client confidentiality between the professional and the Fellow in question.