Top marks for schools counselling service

A new counselling service in Argyll and Bute’s schools to support young people’s mental health is hitting the mark with pupils and parents.

Following the Scottish Government’s announcement in 2018 that it would invest over £60 million in additional school counselling services across Scotland to support young people aged 10 and above affected by emotional and mental health issues, the funding in Argyll and Bute was used to develop a Counselling in Schools service.

The service offers therapeutic counselling, creating a safe, supportive and confidential environment for young people to talk over difficult issues. 

Provided by the Therapeutic Counselling Service (The Exchange) and monitored by the council’s Educational Psychology Service, counselling is delivered face to face across the region with the option for virtual sessions where appropriate. The majority of referrals come directly from schools but parents, other professionals and young people themselves can make appointments too.

Since its launch in January this year, the Exchange has received 415 referrals up to September 2023, an increase of 60% per month in comparison to the previous service. 

Eighty-eight per cent of secondary pupils who engaged with the service reported feeling less distressed following counselling. For primary pupils, the Exchange evaluates the service via questionnaires for pupils and their parents. On average, 84.5% of children engaged with the service and 82% of their parents and carers reported an improvement at the end of counselling sessions. 

A range of feedback from secondary pupils suggests that the sessions left them feeling more calm and confident, and better equipped to manage their anxiety.

The council’s Policy Lead for Education, Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, said: “The Counselling in Schools Service has made a highly significant contribution to supporting the wellbeing and mental health of our children and young people. The feedback received across our primary and secondary schools and from parents demonstrates clearly the positive impact that the service is having in improving outcomes for pupils.”

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