Should all schools have a counselling service?

How has school been for you? Not everyone has it easy or sails through exams and then off to work or university. Sometimes studying, friends or family can get on top of you. 

At one level, learning to deal with these pressures is part of life experience. But when they become more severe and start to impact on your mental health then it’s time to ask for proper help.

So, should every secondary school have a counselling service?

Depending on where in the UK you live and your type of school, you may have had an excellent support and counselling network. But, you might not. 

This isn’t really fair: I think you all deserve the very best care for your mental health and the same standards of support. 


One in 10 young people have a diagnosable mental health condition, and we know mental health issues have been associated with lower levels of academic achievement. One of the main ways of trying to deal with this is by having a school counsellor. However: 

  • The methods of counselling provided vary a lot between schools.
  • Proper research into whether school counselling is beneficial or not has been limited until now.

This month we’ve started a major three year study called the ETHOS Trial at the University of Roehampton along with several other universities. 

The study will help people understand what the best standard of school counselling might look like and what contribution it could make to improving young people’s lives. At the end of it, we’ll be publishing a report saying whether counsellors genuinely make a difference to pupils’ mental health, over and above the usual pastoral care arrangements. Our team also want to work out whether it’s worth the cost.

The question I’m asking is ‘should every secondary school have a counselling service?’ Previous research suggests pupils, parents and schools would find this really valuable.

You can post in the comments to share your own experiences and say what you think. I would be really interested to know.


The research is funded by the independent Economic and Social Research Council. This is how the study will work: 

  • A fully staffed professional counselling service will be set up in 18 English secondary schools.
  • Half of the pupils in each school who need some professional advice will work with our counsellors, and half will use the existing help networks.
  • After set periods of time, our team will assess whether the pupils involved have less psychological issues and if their work is improving, compared to those who used the school’s existing support provision.

All the data we gather will be completely secure and anonymous, and we’ll use it to make a series of recommendations to school leaders, councils and the government about what should be done.

Getting school right can make the biggest difference to your life, but to reach your potential you need the right support. Proper counsellors at every school could be one way of achieving it.

Mick Cooper is Professor of Counselling Psychology at the University of Roehampton, a researcher, and a chartered psychologist. He is the author of textbooks including Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy, Existential Therapies and The Existential Counselling Primer.