Skateboards, swimming and gardening

A look behind the Head of ANU Counselling, Andrew Staniforth
7 June 2019

He's an alumnus of the University and was appointed Senior Counsellor with the ANU Counselling Service in 2015. Four years later, Andrew Staniforth is now leading the counselling team, with some significant changes on the horizon to boost health and wellbeing services for students.

We thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with Andrew after his appointment as Head of Counselling and ahead of the team's upcoming move into Kambri's new Health and Wellbeing Building.

Andrew, thank you for speaking to us and congratulations on being appointed Head of ANU Counselling. How exciting is this opportunity for you?

It's a wonderful opportunity to have the chance to provide leadership to an amazing counselling team that is focused on providing a dedicated service to ANU students, be they postgrad, undergrad, international, domestic. 

We're looking forward to moving into Kambri at the end of the month and there will be ongoing opportunities to promote the services we can offer to students, which include providing counselling for prevention, early intervention, and serious mental health issues as well as providing sexual assault and trauma counselling.

What is something interesting about yourself that we don't know?

I don't know if it's much of a secret but for the last 15 months I've been getting about on a skateboard around campus -  I've never skated in my life before! I took it up because it was taking me forever to get across campus with all the construction going on, but it actually turned out to be a fun thing to do, so I continue to do it.

I also really enjoy spending time in the garden and I'm a regular person at the pool - I try to go a couple of times a week.  Both activities I do to take care of my mental health.

What are you reading at the moment?

I'm reading a book called When the body says no: the cost of hidden stress and also a Haruki Murakami book as well. I've read lots of him, he's my favourite author and the one at the moment that I'm reading is called Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

You have some ties to ANU having been an alumnus. Tell us what makes ANU great for you as someone who has stuck around?

The first thing I tell lots of people is the wonderful environment we have here. This is such a beautiful campus and I think whether you are a staff or a student, we know that experiencing stress is not uncommon. We can just go outside whatever our office or teaching room is, and we can sit in Kambri, we can go for a walk along Sullivan's Creek, it's not far to Lake Burley Griffin. We've got all these wonderful places that we can actually take five minutes and reset and I think that is a fantastic opportunity when we're so close to the city.

What are you most proud of achieving since moving into the role as Head of Counselling?

That we are now able to provide sexual assault therapy for students. This service came about after feedback from the ANU Counselling audit and has been implemented this year.  It provides an additional in-house option in addition to what is also available in the community.  This therapy sits outside a session limit because it's very important that the therapeutic relationship can be formed to help support that the trauma therapy is done in a safe, contained and predictable way to enable the person to develop ways to move on from the experience. 

What is a major priority for you and your team over the next 12 months?

Focusing on how to increase our accessibility and continue to be mindful of not having too much of a lag between a booked appointment and when someone can access us. That is a constant dilemma we are working on and in the next semester I'm hoping we can introduce an intake model that will offer some way of prioritising different needs while still being able to provide a service.

That said, you can always book a same-day appointment with us, where it would be turning up on the day and requesting one.

If you had one piece of advice for students, what would it be?

Take five minutes for yourself or even better, go for a 30 minute walk, or catch up with a friend, and to make sure you're eating well.  Talking with a counsellor sooner rather than later if you are struggling with anything is also going to be helpful.  These are basic things, but so often the counsellors hear how those kinds of things are put aside in order to study or to work.

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ANU Counselling is currently located in building 18 next door to the David Cocking Sports Centre. They are preparing to move into Kambri where they will be located in the new Health and Wellbeing building. It is expected that they will move into there around the end of June 2019.

For more information about the services available via the ANU Counselling team, including how to book appointments for same-day, advance bookings or to take up trauma counselling, as well as tips and tricks on managing workloads, anxiety and stress, visit https://www.anu.edu.au/students/health-safety-wellbeing/counselling/anu-counselling-centre