Three girls sitting around wooden table with open books
Three girls sitting around wooden table with open books

Workshops

Please contact counselling@admin.ox.ac.uk if you would like to sign-up for one of our self-referral workshops.

The workshops on offer

A range of workshops are available to help you build skills to respond to the demands of life at university. The topics change per term, so keep checking this page for updates. 

Current workshops

The workshops are generally short-term, structured psycho-educational and agenda led. Most come from a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) perspective. The workshops are open to between four and 20 participants at a time.

Given online provision and increased access opportunities, we have temporarily increased some workshop capacity to 50 participants where appropriate.

Workshops can be interactive, so please be prepared to participate (asking questions, doing the exercises, making sense of how the information might apply to you), however, they are not therapeutic groups, and you will not be expected to share anything too personal with others in the workshops. Workshops range from a single session to a workshop series, attending all sessions in a series is advisable as they relate to one another.

Self referral workshops:

Can't Work

  • To join: No pre-group consultation is necessary. Email the Counselling Service to check availability and reserve a place.
  • Next workshop date: Fridays 2.15 to 3.45pm (weeks 4-9) Michaelmas term 2022

This is a small one-off group session (up to four people) for any student who is finding themselves blocked in their work. You might be lacking motivation, or finding it difficult to get beyond imagining criticism and judgements. You might think of yourself as a 'perfectionist' or as someone who tends to put things off. You might be having trouble finishing off your work or handing it in. You might keep reading, looking for that one miraculous article and struggle to start writing and finding your own words.  

You will work together collaboratively with a facilitator to understand why you might be blocked and to find strategies which will help you to get working again. Although you are welcome to come back for another workshop session, most people find that coming once is enough to help get them started.

You may like to listen to the Can't work podcasts, and others in the Student Life at Oxford series

Due to the nature and small size of the group, you may not be offered a place right away. You will be contacted and asked to confirm whether you will be coming the following week. 

Finding Your Voice (Social Anxiety)

  • To join: Please make an appointment for individual counselling and let your counsellor know that you would like to explore the possibility of joining this workshop. 
  • Next workshop date: Hilary term 2023

This is a course of two in person 90 minutes long workshops based on cognitive behaviour therapy principles for students who become anxious in social interactions. Challenging situations for you might include socialising informally, attending department or college formal events or speaking up in seminars or groups.

The group will work together collaboratively with a facilitator to understand why we sometimes get self-conscious or socially anxious and consider some ways to make changes. Some degree of group participation will be required as this is an interactive workshop but the aim is to learn new skills in a supportive atmosphere, given the shared nature of the anxieties. Students will also be expected to carry out some practical homework tasks between sessions. The group size is up to a maximum of 10. Undergraduate and Graduate Students are equally welcome as a range of perspectives are helpful.

Managing Sleep & Insomnia

  • To join: No pre-group consultation is necessary. Email the Counselling Service to check availability and reserve a place.
  • Next workshop date: Wednesday 23rd November (week 7) 2.30 to 3.45pm

Sleep is vital for good mental and physical health and something many of us take for granted. However, lack of sleep, or insomnia, is a common and distressing problem. This psycho-educational workshop will explore some of the everyday difficulties people have with sleep, the nature of sleep and the common habits and behaviours that can interfere with good sleep. Using a cognitive behavioural approach, you will learn strategies and techniques that are helpful for overcoming common sleep problems and increasing the potential for a good night’s sleep.

Managing Panic

  • To join: No pre-group consultation is necessary. Email the Counselling Service to check availability and reserve a place.
  • Next workshop date: Wednesday 26 October (Week 3), 15:30-16;30 

A panic attack is an extreme episode of anxiety triggering physical and emotional symptoms that are unpleasant and distressing. This one-hour psychoeducational workshop will overview the psychobiology of panic attacks and present evidence-based strategies and techniques for overcoming panic using a Cognitive Behavioural approach.

Perfectionism - understanding it and strategies to manage it

  • To join: No pre-group consultation is necessary. Email the Counselling Service to check availability and reserve a place.
  • Next workshop date: (FULL for this term) Thursday 3 November (Week 4), 15:30-17:00 with a follow-up session on Thursday 24 November (Week 7), 15:30-17:00

Many students value high standards in their academic, extra-curricular and personal activities. For some, however, the relentless pursuit of excessively high standards can become self-defeating. In those instances, the pursuit of perfection rather than excellence can contribute to high levels of anxiety, stress and low mood. 

The first workshop will provide a thoughtful space to think about how perfectionism can develop and offer ideas and strategies to support alternative, more effective approaches.  You will be encouraged to experiment with different behaviours between workshops. 

The second workshop will offer an opportunity to evaluate the experiments and refine your strategies. 

Practical tools to help you improve your mood and be kinder to yourself

  • To join: No pre-group consultation is necessary. Email the Counselling Service to check availability and reserve a place.
  • Wednesdays, weeks 4, 5, 6 & 7, via Zoom

Open to all Oxford students, these workshops will introduce some practical tips to help with low mood, self-criticism and related difficulties. Each session will involve a short presentation and some practical exercises. You are welcome to keep your camera on or off as you prefer – there is no obligation to speak or share personal material, although there will be opportunities for questions and discussion (particularly in the last open-format session). You are welcome to sign up to one or more individual sessions, or attend the whole series: email counselling@admin.ox.ac.uk to book or for any queries.

For a flavour of what these workshops involve, check out Jonathan’s podcast Introducing CBT for Low Mood and Depressionhttps://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/introducing-cbt-low-mood-and-depression

Connecting with your values – Wednesday 2 November (Week 4): 15:30-16:45

This workshop will focus on how we can use our values as an anchor and guide during challenging times. The session will include exercises designed to help you reflect on the things that are most important and meaningful to you at the moment, and how you can build more of them into your life in a positive and sustainable way.  

Responding to self-criticism and other tricky thoughts – Wednesday 9 November (Week 5): 15:30-16:45 

This workshop will introduce some of the cognitive aspects of CBT, looking at how we can recognise and respond to unhelpful, self-critical thought patterns in order to develop a kinder, more compassionate relationship with ourselves.

Rules for living and how to break them – Wednesday16 November (Week 6): 15:30-16:45

This workshop will explore the rules and expectations we have for ourselves in life, work and relationships. When are these rules helpful, and when do they become overly rigid and demanding? When and how might you want to experiment with changing your rules?

Open session for questions and discussion – Wednesday 23 November (Week 7): 15:30-16:45

This is an open session for those who have attended one or more of the other workshops: a chance to ask questions, discuss how you’ve got on with the techniques, and problem-solve any difficulties.

Reducing Digital Distraction

Smartphones, computers, and tablets are powerful and essential for us to study, socialise, and connect to the outside world. But they can also be a source of endless distraction that undermine our capacity to focus and lead to long stretches of unproductive and unrewarding time. 

If you want to take back control, this workshop can help! You will be supported to: reflect on your relationship with digital devices; identify the role you want tem to play in your life; and get support to make real , practical changes.

This workshop is relevant for all students, undergraduates and graduates

Relaxation

  • To join: No pre-group consultation is necessary. Email the Counselling Service to check availability and reserve a place.
  • Next workshop date: Tuesday 15 November (Week 6), 17:15-18:30

This is a one-off, self-referral workshop, which is guided and psycho-educational in nature, exploring basic physiological relaxation and meditation techniques, including some gentle yoga therapy. 

The workshop covers mindful, diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, body-scanning, visualisation and mindfulness based meditation exercises. Participants are advised to secure a quiet, uninterrupted space where they can lie down on a yoga mat or sit on a comfortable chair. No prior yoga or meditation experience is required. Copies of the exercises and scripts will be emailed out to all participants after the workshop. Groups by counsellor referral:

Group workshops by counsellor referral:

ACT-based Anxiety Group

  • To join: Please make an appointment for individual counselling and let your counsellor know that you would like to explore the possibility of joining this workshop.
  • Next workshop date: Hilary Term 2023
  • Commitment: 60 minutes for 4 sessions, plus weekly home practice.

This 4 week course is for students who are finding they become anxious in a variety of settings and ways. This might include intrusive thoughts, settling down to sleep at night, sitting exams or even waking up in the morning with anxious feelings that you can’t explain.  

The group will work collaboratively, with the facilitators, to understand why we sometimes experience anxious feelings, the physical symptoms of anxiety, and to consider some ways to make changes. Some degree of group participation will be required as this is an interactive course, but the aim is to learn new skills in a supportive atmosphere. The group will consist of 14 - 16 students using small breakout-rooms for short activities.

LGBTQ+ Supportive Group

  • To join: Please make an appointment for individual counselling and let your counsellor know that you would like to explore the possibility of joining this workshop. 
  • Next workshop date: Wednesday 26 October-Wednesday 30 November (Week 3-7 inclusive), 16:00-17:00
  • Commitment: 90 minutes for 5 sessions.

Managing Strong Emotions

  • To join: Please make an appointment for individual counselling and let your counsellor know that you would like to explore the possibility of joining this workshop. 
  • Next workshop date: Thursday 3rd November (week 4.6 & 8) 9.45 - 11.15am
  • Commitment: 90 minutes for 3 sessions.

The aim of these three sessions is to help students to understand more about their emotions, and so become more confident in managing them. We will discuss strategies to help students self-regulate intense emotions, provide psycho-education, and introduce grounding and distress tolerance techniques that enable students to stabilise and calm their emotions. The first part is mostly psychoeducational; the following 2 parts are interactive and will require some degree of participation.

Mindfulness Course

  • To Join: Please make an appointment for individual counselling and let your counsellor know that you would like to explore the possibility of joining this workshop.
  • Next workshop date: Hilary Term 2023
  • Commitment: 90 minutes for 6 sessions and home practice in between

This practical six-week course is based on the curriculum developed to accompany the book Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Professor Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman and developed by staff at the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation. It is a curriculum that is particularly well-suited to students as it places emphasis on developing the skills needed for managing the demands of university life, as well as techniques for building resilience and developing healthy relationships, that everyone can fit into their busy daily lives.

The aim of the course is to encourage movement away from automatic pilot towards a more developed awareness, clarity and acceptance of present-moment reality. The course includes the introduction to and practice of meditation techniques which help to develop a more heightened awareness of present moment experience, non-judgementally and with a spirit of inquiry. As well as the meditations the course includes psychoeducation about rumination, anxiety and depression through the utilization of a number of exercises drawn from cognitive therapy that demonstrate the links between thinking and feeling.

In order to fully benefit from the course, it is important that you commit to attending every session as each class builds on the learning and meditation practises from the week before. It is also important that you are able to engage with the home practice, which means being able to set aside up to 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week, for the duration of the course.

Oxford University Counselling Service has been running mindfulness courses for students since 2009 – one of the first counselling services in the country to do so. The courses are run by Dr Ruth Collins, an experienced mindfulness teacher, who trained with Professor Mark Williams and his team at the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation (University of Oxford). 

Self-Compassion Group

  • To join: Please make an appointment for individual counselling and let your counsellor know that you would like to explore the possibility of joining this group.
  • Next workshop date: Friday 4 November-Friday 2 December (Week 4-8 inclusive), 10:00-11:30
  • Commitment: 90 minutes for 5 weekly sessions

The Self-Compassion Workshop takes a biopsychosocial approach to compassion, and this forms the basis of Compassion Focused Therapy and Compassionate Mind Training, founded by Professor Paul Gilbert. 

We’ll be learning what compassion is and isn’t, and getting to know your relationship with it… 

Does the very mention of compassion make you feel uncomfortable?  
Is it all about being nice to yourself and sleeping-in? 
Isn’t your inner critic and perfectionist the reason for your success to date?  
Do you deserve compassion? 

We’ll be addressing such questions and concerns, and many more.

We’ll be learning why and how compassion helps us to thrive and to bear the difficulties posed by being human, and specifically in your life context.   

We’ll be getting to know and understand our inner critic. 

And every week, you’ll be learning how to cultivate compassion and tame your inner critic, through a range of techniques, drawing in part, upon mindfulness.  

This psycho-educational workshop series will invite you to explore your relationship with compassion and your inner critic.  You will be encouraged to discuss your experiences and ideas from the workshop in pairs, small groups, and within the main group. However, you won’t ever be singled out to answer a question or disclose personal information. All exercises are voluntary. 

If you are interested in attending this course, please speak to your individual counsellor. There will be a 10-minute assessment with the course facilitator to check that the course is a good fit for you at this time.  

To get an idea of whether compassion work is for you, students can listen to the following podcasts on the Counselling Service podcast page: 

https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/welfare/counselling/self-help/podcasts

Self-Compassion Parts 1 and 2 

Self-Criticism (via CBT for low mood)

Students of Colour Group

  • To Join: Please email the Counselling Service for a self-referral form and any questions you may have about this group.
  • Next workshop dates: TBC for Michaelmas Term
  • Commitment: You will need to commit to attending 5 sessions on the above dates, each lasting 90 minutes. 

This group provides a unique place of refuge and safety for students to reflect on issues that may impact their academic and social experience at Oxford.  Any issue may be explored in this confidential and supportive group setting, which may include academic pressure, racism, relationship problems, and so on.  Attending this group will provide opportunities to learn from and develop with your peers.

Graduate and undergraduate students of colour are welcome.  The group will consist of six participants.

The group will be facilitated by two members of staff from the counselling service who are also persons of colour.

Survivor Support Group

  • To Join:  Please email the Counselling Service for a self-referral form and any questions you may have about this group.
  • Next workshop dates: Tuesday 11 October-Tuesday 29 November (Week 1-8 inclusive), 17:00-18:30
  • Commitment: Weekly 1.5hr sessions - participants are asked to commit to all sessions.

A safe space for survivors of sexual abuse and violence, whether historic or recent, to find support whilst navigating life at Oxford University. There will be no expectation for participants to share the details of their experiences, however, sharing the impact and your current thoughts, feelings and responses is encouraged. This group is open to Undergraduate and Post Graduate students

Groups are kept small and confidential and facilitated by a member of the Counselling Service, experienced and trained in working with survivors of sexual violence and abuse.

All information submitted by you to access any workshop or self-referral group (i.e. any electronic forms you complete), a minimal record of your engagement with the workshop/group, and any student evaluation completed relating to the workshop/group within the Counselling Service, will be kept confidentially and securely on our database at the University Counselling service for six years in line with legal requirements and then destroyed.

 
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