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Counselling in UK secondary schools: a comprehensive review of audit and evaluation studies

Cooper, Mick (2009) Counselling in UK secondary schools: a comprehensive review of audit and evaluation studies. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 9 (3). pp. 137-150. ISSN 1473-3145

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The purpose of this study was to develop a comprehensive picture of the nature and outcomes of counselling in secondary schools in the UK. Audit and evaluation studies of schools counselling were identified using a systematic literature search. Thirty studies were found and analysed using a variety of methods. Typically, counselling services provided purely person-centred, or person-centred-based, forms of therapy. Averaged across all studies, clients had a mean age of 13.86 and attended for 6.35 sessions of counselling. The average percentage of female clients per study was 56.31%. Most frequently, clients presented with family issues, with anger issues particularly prevalent in males. Around 60% of clients began counselling with 'abnormal' or borderline levels of psychological distress. Counselling was associated with large improvements in mental health (mean weighted effect size = 0.81), with around 50% of clinically distressed clients demonstrating clinical improvement. On average, just over 80% of respondents rated counselling as moderately or very helpful, with teachers giving it a mean rating of 8.22 on a 10-point scale of helpfulness. For clients, the most helpful aspect of counselling was the opportunity to talk and be listened to, while pastoral care staff emphasised the counsellor's independence, expertise and confidentiality. There were some indications that counselling may indirectly benefit students' capacities to study and learn. School-based counselling appears to be of considerable benefit to young people in the UK, but there is a need for this finding to be verified through controlled trials.