School-based humanistic counselling effective

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Authored by

Jean Gross

School-based humanistic counselling consists of one-on-one sessions with a counsellor employed by a school, and is based on a child-centred approach, with children talking about their issues and developing solutions with the aid of the counsellor, rather than therapist-led approaches, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.


In a study published in The Lancet. participants were randomly assigned to either counselling plus schools' pastoral care as usual or pastoral care alone. Participants were pupils who had moderate-to-severe levels of emotional symptoms (measured by a score of ≥5 on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire Emotional Symptoms scale). The primary outcome was psychological distress at 12 weeks (Young Person's Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation measure). The research, which was conducted in 18 London schools and surveyed 329 children aged between 13 and 16 years olds at six-week intervals, found school-based humanistic counselling led to significant reductions in pupils’ psychological distress over the long-term, compared to pupils who only received pastoral care. The cost was between £300 and £400 per pupil.


Cooper, M. et al. (2021) Humanistic counselling plus pastoral care as usual versus pastoral care as usual for the treatment of psychological distress in adolescents in UK state schools (ETHOS): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, January 20,