what to do while you wait for counselling or other mental health support services

Reaching out to support services can be an important step on your mental health and wellbeing journey. When you’re ready to talk, we get that you’ll probably want help straight away. Sometimes though, you might have to wait before you can see someone.

Understanding the waiting period for services

Being on a waitlist can be tough and bring up lots of emotions. You might feel anxious, hopeless or annoyed. And these are normal responses. Always remember though, the wait doesn’t mean your needs aren’t important.

We know that waiting, even for a short time, can be tough. While it’s not ideal, some people use that time to reflect and get ready for the journey ahead.  

Now let’s look at why the wait might happen - 

  • More help seekers than helpers: It’s great that more people know about mental health now. This means many more are asking for support when they need it. But sometimes there aren’t enough available appointments/mental health workers to go around right away.  

  • Getting it right for you: It’s important to find the right kind of support that fits what you’re going through. So services often spend time understanding people’s individual needs and situations.

 

From more people wanting support to making sure you get the best-matched care, there are various reasons for the delays. But remember, every step, even being on the waitlist, is a move towards better mental health.

The wait time can feel long, but you’re not alone in this. There are things you can do to help you cope, skills you can learn along the way, and places to turn to get support. 

Keep reading to explore our tips... 

 

Check out self-help resources

There’s a stack of resources you can access now. 

Checking out different resources can help you understand your feelings and learn new skills for tough times. But there’s a lot of info out there, and not all of it’s good. So always go for resources from trustworthy places. 

For example: 

Try these 7 tips to help improve your mental health and wellbeing  

There are lots of everyday things you can do to help look after your mental health and wellbeing.  

 

We know that some days it can feel hard to do these tips, at times like this, take a small step and see where it takes you. Often starting is the hardest part! 

headspace also has resources for First Nations young people and multicultural young people for you to check out. 

 

 

A word on family

When it comes to supporting young people, we believe that family and other caregivers – whether by birth, choice or circumstance - can play a big role. Studies show that when family is involved in someone’s care, it can really help. So, remember to reach out to trusted family, friends and community for support.  

 

 

Practise self-compassion 

We all go through times in our lives where things get tough - during these times it’s important to be kind to ourselves. Don’t forget to practise self-compassion. It can help us cope with challenges, build our confidence and improve our mental health. Try out our interactive activity on self-compassion.  

 

Join a support group

Connecting with others who are going through similar things can help provide comfort, understanding and a sense of belonging. It can also give us a space to share and build on our coping strategies.  

There are lots of support groups both online and in-person for a range of topics including mental health disorders, addiction and other life challenges. There are also many different community support groups including LGBTQIA+ groups such as Qlife or BLAQ, for First Nations peoples. 

You can check out headspace’s safe and supportive online communities. These are a great way to connect with others. 

  • professionally led online community chats by trained clinicians  
  • peer group chats with other young people going through similar things, moderated by trained clinicians 

 

You can also chat to your nearest headspace centre to learn more about groups being offered. Some have life skills or community groups. 

Explore online counselling 

If you want to speak to a mental health professional while you’re waiting, there are online counselling options available. These are anonymous and free of charge. 

  • Kids Helpline - for 24/7 phone and online chat for young people aged 5-25 years — call 1800 55 1800. 

  • eheadspace - chat with mental health professionals over the phone or webchat, seven days a week between 9am – 1am (AEST). It’s a safe space if you want some advice, are unsure of what help you need or just want to talk things through. 

 

For immediate help, please contact emergency services – 000 

 

Sign up for a headspace account 

Creating a headspace account lets you build a self-help toolkit within a supportive online community. You’ll find tools and resources for your mental health and wellbeing, connect with like-minded people, join group chats, and get professional 1-on-1 support. And best of all, it's available online and free of charge. 

 

 

Get some work and study support 


If you’re having a tough time, getting into, or staying in, work and study might seem overwhelming, but it can be really good for us. It can boost our confidence, give us a sense of achievement and connect us with others. It’s about building a routine, setting goals and working to achieve them. If you need a hand with it all, check out headspace Work & Study to find out more. 

 

 

Frequently asked questions 

The wait for counselling can vary. Waiting periods can change based on things like where you live and the number of people seeking support. Sometimes, it's quick and other times, there might be a bit of a wait. Check in with the person or the service, they might be able to give you a rough estimate.

Starting counselling is a big step, and the wait can bring up various emotions including anxiety and frustration. It's OK to feel this way, many people have similar feelings before and during their first session. 

Of course. While you wait, it's a good idea to support yourself. You could dive into self-help tools, join local groups, stay connected to your GP, or try out online chats. It’s about finding things that work for you. 

 

What should I do if I start to feel worse or the waiting period becomes overwhelming? 


Your wellbeing is really important. If you’re having a tough time, or your symptoms or situation are getting worse, it’s super important to tell someone. You could: - 


Contact the service  

Contact the mental health service or the person you're going to see. They might be able to offer you an earlier appointment, direct you to other resources, or give you some support in the meantime. 

 

Talk to someone  

Talking things out or yarning to someone can help you feel supported and heard. You could speak with trusted family, friends, a teacher or an Elder.  

It can sometimes be hard letting others know what’s going on, especially if you’re worried about being judged. However, talking to others can help us feel understood and more connected. You could begin by talking about what you feel comfortable sharing, you might just want to say you’re having a tough time. 

If you’re experiencing severe distress, have thoughts of self harm or suicide, or are in immediate danger, it’s important to get professional help straight away. 

For immediate help, please contact emergency services – 000 

National 24/7 crisis services 

 

Additional youth support services 

 

Remember, getting help is a sign of courage. You've taken the first step, and support is on its way. Stay connected, look after yourself and keep going – you're not alone on this journey. 

 

 

Other useful resources

 

The headspace Content Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website.  

Last reviewed 14 November 2023 

Get professional support