In September 2020 we hosted a webinar - The Changing Landscape of School and College Counselling - with guest speaker Professor Mick Cooper, alongside Jo Holmes (CYPF Lead), Sarah Watson (CYPF Ethics Lead) and Wendy Hay (CYPF Divisional Executive member), to provide an overview of our campaign work, research and ethical dilemmas related to school and college counselling.

This led a number of practitioners expressing an interest to be involved in an expert reference group to work on both existing and future campaigns.

School and college counselling intervention is defined as "a form of psychological therapy that provides young people with an empathic, non-judgmental, and supportive relationship to find their own answers to their problems’’ (Hill, Roth, Cooper, 2013). This is offered within a safe and boundaried space for children and young people to talk about their difficulties, within a relationship of agreed confidentiality.

The Expert Reference Group (ERG)

The ERG consists of around 20 members from a range of backgrounds, including those employed directly by schools and colleges and those working within the third sector, as well as private practitioners and volunteers.

The group advocates access to free counselling for children and young people while recognising that practitioners should be appropriately paid.

The group is committed to developing user-friendly resources to promote the role of evidence-based counselling so commissioners and service providers are clearer about professional standards, appropriate training and what counselling involves.

The group is chaired by Shira Baram and Niki Gibbs. If you have any suggestions for future campaigns or ideas for the group to take forward, please email

Shira Baram

Shira Baram, Co-Chair

I have quite a varied experience and background. I've worked as a secondary school teacher, often with students with special educational needs and disabilities, both as a form teacher and offering pastoral support. I've also worked in administration and management within the NHS and am currently leading on the health and wellbeing work stream and strategy for my division

I'm trained as a person-centred counsellor. My training included a placement with a charity offering counselling for children and young people both in and outside of schools. Since qualifying I've continued to work with young people, as well as working with older adults which gives me a greater appreciation for how experiences, feelings and emotions encountered as a child can affect and shape relationships and ability to process experiences later on in life. For me this highlights the importance and significance for children and young people being able to access counselling and support.

Providing children, teenagers and young people an opportunity to talk or express themselves artistically and creatively about things personal to them without any judgement is so valuable and essential, and is why I’m so passionate about increasing accessibility and counselling for children and young people as well as their families. 

Niki Gibbs

Niki Gibbs

I'm a senior accredited member of BACP. I am a Lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy, at UWE Bristol. I also have a practice supervising qualified and student counsellors and school staff working in pupil well-being and safeguarding roles.

My previous experience in school counselling has included 10 years developing and leading a school counselling service based on the whole-school approach to SBC.

Gail Churney

Gail Churney

I'm a registered member of BACP and a highly experienced qualified counsellor. I've been in practice for over 20 years, beginning my training as a Relate counsellor, and also have a wealth of experience working with children and young people in many schools across London and Hertfordshire.

I also run a busy private practice working with young people, individuals, couples and families, both online and face to face. I'm also the lead counsellor and supervisor for a Community Bereavement Group.

Louisa James 

My career shift from the business world into therapy and counselling began a decade ago and was shaped by volunteering on helplines, being involved in family support work and training in a variety of approaches including person-centred counselling, CBT and art therapy. As a curious parent myself, I'm interested in how to best support teenage development.

I choose to specialise in working with adolescents and offering preventative and therapeutic interventions to this fascinating and inspiring client group. I'm a BACP registered counsellor and work in a busy school counselling service in a large comprehensive school. I also have my own private practice working with young people and adults.

Sarah Watson 

I'm a BACP Senior Accredited CYP Psychotherapist. I oversee a large schools-based counselling service that I set up in 2011 in Northumberland. I'm a counselling supervisor and manage a large team of therapists. In December 2019, I started my role as BACP CYP Ethics Consultant and very much enjoy my work with the ethics team, I love being part of BACP. I'm also a Welfare Officer for a local sports club and support them with any safeguarding issues. I've got a background in lecturing psychology and counselling in the North East.

I'm passionate about all things related to children and young people. I want to help to secure a counsellor in every school - granting access to good quality and inclusive mental health support for children and young people throughout their school lives.

Sue Lewis 

I'm a senior accredited counsellor and supervisor, with over 20 years of experience. I currently run a counselling service in a secondary school, as well as offering supervision privately. Over the years, I've worked with children, young people and adults in a variety of contexts (including primary schools, the NHS, the voluntary sector, employee assistance programmes and private practice.)

I've also worked as a trainer, both on a counselling diploma course and certificate and diploma courses for working with children and young people. I've worked with children and young people all my working life, having previously worked as a primary school teacher. 

Clare Ewers-Archer

I'm a humanistic and integrative counsellor working from a relational and person-centred perspective. I set up and run a counselling service in a Nottingham primary school. Prior to completing my training in counselling and psychotherapy, I was a primary school teaching assistant for 14 years. I'm a member of the school and college-based counselling ERG as I'm passionate about the benefits of a paid counsellor in every school and college in England.

Sian Clare

Before qualifying as a counsellor in 2006 I worked for the local authority in various roles working with young people. These included working with LAC, running alternative education provision, delivering holiday provision, and working with young people with SEN.

My counselling experience includes counselling at York Women’s Counselling Service and Hull University. I currently work in two secondary schools in York and have a private counselling and supervision practice.

I am the founder of a peer supervision group for counsellors working in schools in our area with the aim of sharing good practice.

My current passion is for promoting the understanding of neurodivergence in education and how counsellors can best support their neurodivergent students.


Sheryl Grant

Sheryl Grant

I live in South Ayrshire in Scotland and I have been a practising Person-Centred Therapist for 10 years.  For the last 7 have worked in secondary schools and I’m passionate about ensuring this fantastic resource goes from strength to strength.

In addition to my school-based counselling practice I have a small private practice.  Here I engage with other services including Women’s Aid, Scottish Families (SFAD) and Barnardo’s. I have a particular interest in attachment disorders and helping those young people who have experienced living in care.  I worked as a foster carer for 4 years.

Caryl Sibbett

Caryl Sibbett

I’m dual registered as a BACP senior accredited counsellor / psychotherapist and supervisor, and an HCPC registered Art Psychotherapist. In work in Northern Ireland as a pluralistic and trauma informed practitioner and have over 30 years’ experience. My practice includes working with children, young people and adults. I also supervise a range of counsellors and arts therapists working with children and young people across school-based, statutory, third sector and private practice settings.

I co-teach on a Post Qualifying Diploma in trauma informed counselling/therapy with children and young people and a PQ Certificate in creative supervision. I founded and led art therapy master’s level training in NI, and still teach on this course. As a retired Senior Lecturer in art therapy and Lecturer in education, I have engaged in research projects exploring pupils' emotional health and wellbeing, suicide postvention, anti-bullying initiatives, healthy schools etc. I’m passionately committed to promoting early intervention and to ensuring that children, young people and families have access to counselling and art therapy in schools and community settings.

Dr Marilyn McGowan

Dr Marilyn McGowan

I have been a school counsellor and supervisor for the last 30 years. I also lecture on all aspects of counselling with the Iron Mill College in Poole which also offers a Post qualifying Diploma in Counselling Young People and prioritises support of this work. I am a member of the ERG group at BACP and consider myself a strong advocate of counselling in schools and improved pay and conditions for all counsellors. My Professional Doctorate focussed on the relationship of the school counsellor to its host school and I found that counselling could play a key role in developing ethos and mental health in schools.   

Helen Cossar

My journey into counselling started after supporting children and young people with SEND and speech and language difficulties in primary and secondary education for 12 years; seeing first-hand the impact this had on their social and emotional needs, led me to train as a person-centred therapist almost 10 years ago. 

As an accredited member of the BACP, I support children predominantly in the primary setting and work as part of a team delivering an integrated local authority service, working closing with other teams within the SEND and inclusion service.  Alongside this role, in my capacity as a supervisor, I also offer supervision to school staff to support their own well-being in the education environment. I believe that having a paid counsellor in every school is essential to support both young people and staff to realise their potential.

Young Person's Advisory Service

Young Person's Advisory Service

YPAS offers a wide range of support, wellbeing and therapeutic services for children, young people and families in Merseyside. Established in 1966; YPAS is a charity that supports children, young people and families to address their mental health and emotional well-being difficulties.

YPAS Counselling and Psychotherapy Service provides a wide range of therapeutic interventions that are designed to help you address those issues that are impacting on Children, Young People’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. YPAS have a range of members who attend the ERG.