Voluntary sector counselling plays critical role in helping young people with mental health problems, study reveals

  • Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Voluntary and community sector counselling services play a critical role in helping young people who have fallen through a gap in mental health services provision, new research from suggests.

Young people seen by trained counsellors in services run by charities and community organisations expressed very high levels of satisfaction with their care and showed significant improvements, according to the research conducted by Professor Mick Cooper from the University of Roehampton, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and Youth Access, an advice and counselling network.

One in eight children in England is living with a mental health problem, according to NHS Digital. With trends showing girls and young adults at greater risk of experiencing mental health issues, the study suggests that voluntary sector (VCS) providers will play an increasingly vital role in ensuring mental health support reaches young people who are most in need.

The study found a higher proportion of young women using the voluntary sector services compared to NHS and school-based services, as well as serving an older client group of young adults.

Professor Mick Cooper, from the Department of Psychology, said: “As the government decides how to spend money to support young people across the country, the work being done by VCS organisations should be a key focus. The need for mental health treatments among young people and young adults seems to be increasing, and we need to ensure that all members of our community have access to these much-needed services.

“Our study not only shows how satisfied clients are with counselling within the voluntary and community sector, but also how the accessibility that VCS counselling can provide may be a critically important factor in supporting young people’s mental health needs.”

The research published in  Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice is the first of its kind to shed light on an area of counselling that has typically been overlooked.

More than 2,100 young people aged between 11 and 25 years old were surveyed for the research to gauge the level of accessibility and satisfaction with counselling from nine VCS services in England that operate Youth Access’s model of Youth Information, Advice and Counselling Services (YIACS); a holistic approach to young people’s health and wellbeing concerns which aims to address a wide range of social, legal, practical, emotional and mental health needs in a coordinated way.

In general, young people accessing these services experienced significant short-term reductions in psychological distress, at levels comparable with statutory and educational services.

The impact of the research submitted by our Department of Psychology is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (Research Excellence Framework 2014).