09 February 2022
The number of students seeking school-based counselling services has significantly increased, with around 1,200 students accessing support in school and colleges during the last academic year
As part of the launch of the Children and Young People's Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Strategy (2022- 2025) and Children's Mental Health Week (7-13 Feb) the Government of Jersey is highlighting the work of the school-based counselling team.
The Department for Children, Young People, Education and Skills have a team of qualified counsellors in most secondary schools, and at Highlands College, who provide a confidential counselling service to young people at their respective schools, as well as advice and consultation to parents and school staff.
What does a day in the life of a school-based counsellor look like?
Most counselling in schools takes place in planned, regular sessions, which last anywhere between 30 to 50 minutes. Young people can self-refer for counselling, or they can be referred by a parent or teacher. However, counselling is entirely voluntary, and the counsellor will always check to make sure that the young person is engaging in counselling through their own personal choice.
Much of a school-based counsellor's day is spent engaging in one-to-one counselling sessions with young people. However, part of their role is also to provide therapeutic group work or workshops in response to identified needs such as anxiety, building self-esteem, exam stress, etc.
Something that not many will know about school-based counselling:
Hundreds of young people engage in school-based counselling in Jersey every academic year. The vast majority of young people who engage with school-based counselling in Jersey don't go on to require onward referral for more specialist mental health support such as CAMHS, which highlights the importance of the preventative value of school-based counselling.
Which teams do you work with most?
Most school-based counsellors are part of their school's wider pastoral team and this relationship is important to ensure that young people's needs are met holistically. We also work with a range of other services such as the Youth Service, Brook, Mind Jersey, Jersey Hospice Care, the Samaritans, Barnardos and the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
What will this year look like for your team?
As well as the themes that we traditionally see in school-based counselling such as family problems, anxiety, peer group issues, bereavement, anger problems, low self-esteem etc, we're continuing to support young people with the fallout from the pandemic, which has been incredibly difficult for many young people.
Like other services that support young people's mental health, such as CAMHS and the YES Project, we're seeing a significant increase in the numbers of young people accessing school-based counselling, which was around 1,200 last year, so we envisage this year to be an incredibly busy time for our service.
What is the best advice you can give to children and young people?
We'd encourage them to reach out to us for support if they're struggling with anything that affects their mental health. School-based counselling is very accessible. For example, some schools offer drop-in times where you don't need an appointment, some have email or text appointments available, and some have an appointment box where you can just write your name and email address down and pop it into a locked box to request an appointment.
School-based counsellors are trained to try and understand the issues or problems young people are facing, from their point of view, and they do so without judgement.
It's also important to remember that the young person can very much determine what the focus of the counselling will be, and that everything that's discussed will always remain confidential, if the young person isn't in immediate danger. What a lot of young people find is that being able to talk about their worries or concerns to someone who's trained to listen and understand, can really feel like a weight has been lifted.