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Randomised controlled trial of school-based humanistic counselling for emotional distress in young people : feasibility study and preliminary indications of efficacy

Cooper, Mick and Rowland, Nancy and McArthur, K. and Pattison, Susan and Cromarty, Karen and Richards, Kaye (2010) Randomised controlled trial of school-based humanistic counselling for emotional distress in young people : feasibility study and preliminary indications of efficacy. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 4 (1). pp. 1-12. ISSN 1753-2000

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to test the feasibility of a randomised controlled trial comparing six weeks of humanistic school-based counselling versus waiting list in the reduction of emotional distress in young people, and to obtain initial indications of efficacy. Following a screening procedure, young people (13 - 15 years old) who experienced emotional distress were randomised to either humanistic counselling or waiting list in this multi-site study. Outcomes were assessed using a range of self-report mental health measures, with the emotional symptoms subscale of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) acting as the primary outcome indicator. Recruitment procedures were successful, with 32 young people consenting to participate in the trial and 27 completing endpoint measures. Trial procedures were acceptable to all involved in the research. No significant differences were found between the counselling and waiting list groups in reductions in levels of emotional symptoms (Hedges' g = 0.03), but clients allocated to counselling showed significantly greater improvement in prosocial behaviour (g = 0.89) with an average effect size (g) across the nine outcome measures of 0.25. Participants with higher levels of depressive symptoms showed significantly greater change. This study suggested that a randomised controlled trial of counselling in schools is acceptable and feasible, although initial indications of efficacy are mixed.