The School Counselling Service and Frequently Asked Questions
Mrs Renata Good, our School Counsellor, follows up her article of last week with further information on the school counselling service.
‘There may be times in our lives when we experience difficulties or have to face distressing events that leave us feeling angry, unhappy, anxious, depressed or confused. When our usual way of coping seems inadequate to deal with it, we may start thinking of seeking support from someone outside of the ‘problem.’
This article covers some of those ‘Frequently Asked Questions,’ concerning the School Counselling Service.
- What is school based counselling/play and creative arts therapy?
School based counselling and therapy gives pupils a regular and private space to talk about worries or problems they are experiencing. It provides a safe place with regular appointments over a period of time to help them express and understand their inner thoughts and feelings, come to terms with the source of their distress, look at things differently, and develop greater emotional resilience.
- What benefits are there to counselling, and play and creative therapies?
There is little doubt of the link between emotional and mental health wellbeing and learning. Counselling, and Play and Creative Art Therapies can help children and young people to be in a stronger position to concentrate in class, engage with learning, improve relationships 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 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. It is not about giving advice or telling young people what to do but helps them make informed choices to support personal growth and self-awareness.
- What is the different about Play Therapy and Creative Art Therapies?
Play and Creative Art Therapies aim to produce the same outcomes as traditional counselling. However, they are particularly beneficial for young children who may struggle to articulate and express painful emotions through words. During a session the child will engage with a range of games, toys, art and play activities to help them express their worries and feelings at their own pace. Through observations and interacting with the child a therapist is able to gain an understanding of issues that are affecting their wellbeing and, in the process, help the child manage their troublesome feelings at their pace.
- How long will it take?
There is no magic wand and no special formula. Counselling takes time. Neither is it everyone’s cup of tea. Much depends on developing a trusting therapeutic relationship and a belief in the therapeutic process. As troublesome feelings are accessed, these can sometimes get worse before they get better. It’s part of the process.
The School Counselling Service at St Augustine’s Priory provides weekly one-to-one sessions on Mondays during the school day in term time. In the first instance 6 – 8 sessions of 40 minutes duration are usually offered. The number of sessions can be varied depending on the severity of the client’s problem, client’s level of therapeutic engagement, and support network.
- 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. The counsellor will liaise with the designated ‘link person’ and appropriate staff at the school to gain insights on the pupil and develop suitable support strategies, but full details of sessions are not shared, and the content of counselling sessions remain confidential. If disclosure is necessary, for instance in a safeguarding issue, it is done on a need to know basis, and in most circumstances following prior consultation with the client. A client, however, can tell who they wish, when, 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 and students can be referred by parents and teachers to the counsellor or through the link person following consultation with the Form Teacher, Head of Year, or another member of staff. Students aged 13 and over regarded as Gillick competent and where Fraser guidelines apply (House of Lords, 1985), can also self-refer to the counsellor direct.
Where a referral has been made, the school’s link person, Mrs Collins, Deputy Head of Seniors, and the counsellor will manage the referrals to select pupils and students 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.
Young children in particular need a systemic approach to promote resilience and self-esteem. 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. An observation of younger children may be conducted as part of the assessment process. 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 where 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 Westminster). 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’s School Counselling Service please see
Mrs Renata Good, MBACP Snr. Accr., and Registered