From the Counsellor’s Chair
As the new term gets underway, a warm welcome to returning parents and greetings to new ones. My first Priory Post article this academic year is a reminder to existing readers and an introduction to new ones of the school counselling service offered to the pupils of St Augustine’s Priory.
It’s a given that at some time or another we will face disappointments, change and challenges. Amongst others these can evoke feelings of anger, sadness and worry as well as happiness. The ways in which feelings are experienced are however unique to each individual, may change over time, and vary with each situation.
- What benefits are there to counselling?
There is a little doubt of the link between emotional and mental health wellbeing and learning. Counselling can help children and young people to be in a far stronger position to concentrate in class, engage with learning and achieve. In some instances the counsellor can act as the client’s advocate. The service can help signpost clients to other agencies that may be better suited to meet their needs. It can also reassure other clients they are doing the best they can in the circumstances.
- How does counselling achieve changes?
School counselling offers clients the opportunity to gain a clearer understanding of troublesome feelings that arise from relationships, events, and other issues which are interfering with the business of getting on, whether in or out of school. It provides the time and space in a safe, contained environment for clients to explore what may be informing these feelings, come to terms with the sources of their distress, remember their strengths, develop greater emotional resilience and find resolutions.
Young children at St Augustine’s Priory are offered play therapy and creative arts, with the therapist employing a range of creative mediums to engage the child at their pace. This approach aims to produce the same outcomes as traditional counselling. It is particularly beneficial for young children who may struggle to articulate and express painful emotions through words.
- How long will it take?
There is no magic wand, no pixie dust, no charmed potion and no special formula! Counselling takes time. Neither is it everyone’s cup of tea. Much depends on developing a trusting, therapeutic relationship and belief in the process. As troublesome feelings are accessed, these can sometimes get worse before they get better. It’s part of the process.
In the first instance 6 – 8 sessions of 40 minutes’ duration are usually offered. The number of sessions can be decreased or increased depending on the severity of the client’s problem, ensuing feelings, their support network and the client’s level of therapeutic engagement.
- When does the school counselling take place?
Counselling and play therapy takes place at St Augustine’s Priory on Mondays during term time.
- Is it confidential?
The school counselling service recognises the importance of working systemically, especially with younger children who due to their age are far more dependent on the adults in their lives. However, bar a few exceptions the content of counselling sessions remains confidential. A client, however, can tell who they wish, when, where and as much as they want about what they said or did during a session. That is their prerogative and needs to be respected by adults and peers alike.
- How can the school counselling service be accessed?
Pupils can be referred by parents and teachers to the counsellor following consultation with the Form Teacher or Head of Year. The school link person, currently Acting Deputy Head, Miss Ariane Gandi, and the counsellor will manage the referrals to select pupils suitable for therapy. The counsellor can also be consulted beforehand. It is important that a potential client is aware of the referral and wishes to see the counsellor. If a client is reluctant to be referred it is likely they will be resistant to therapeutic intervention and not engage.
Before counselling or play therapy takes place, where a referral has been made it is invaluable, if applicable, to meet with parents/carers with parental responsibility to discuss the referral and assess the suitability of therapeutic intervention. Young children in particular need a systemic approach to promote resilience and self-esteem. Parental permission for therapy will always be sought for pupils under the age of 13, and parent/carer invited by the counsellor to an interview.
- Can a student self-refer without parental consent?
In short, ‘Yes.’ A lunch time drop-in service and self-referral is available for students aged 13 and over deemed Gillick competent and Fraser guidelines apply (House of Lords, 1985). Whilst specific parental consent will not be sought for students aged 13 and over who self-refer, a client would be encouraged to share relevant information with their parent/carer.
- Who offers the counselling?
The counselling service at St Augustine’s Priory is offered through the Catholic Children’s Society (CCS). As a senior accredited and registered member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, and Certified Play Therapist with Play Therapy UK, I adhere to their Codes of Ethics in the provision of counselling and play therapy to children and young people. For further information on the School Counselling Service offered by the CCS, please see www.cathchild.org.uk/www.ccsconnected.org.uk.
Mrs R Good, B.Sc., Dip. Counselling