Amber* knew she was having trouble with her relationship with food and she wanted to do something about it.

But the idea of talking openly about it with someone was too much for her. So she left her school counsellor a note to say how she was feeling.

“I was constantly preoccupied with food or with going for a run or to the gym. It was exhausting and starting to get me down,” says Amber.

“I thought I can’t do this anymore. I wanted to do something about it.

“It seemed like a good idea to come to the counsellor.

“I didn’t really want to talk face to face at first. There’s a little box outside her office and you can write a little note. I thought that’s cool. I didn’t actually have to say anything, as that would have been harder.”

The response from the school counsellor to the note, persuaded her to attend her first face-to-face counselling session.

“It was quite scary to be honest when I started. I’m not very good at talking openly about my personal problems. But I soon got used to it. We got to know each other.

“It took two or three weeks to build up that trust.

“I began to realise that why would someone who’s trying to help you make you feel worried.

Amber’s counsellor helped her in several different ways.

“I began to learn how to change my life.

“I think I understand myself in a different way now. I got better at understanding why I was preoccupied by different things. I came to realise that it was about relationships with other people that was making me feel like that.

“My counsellor gave me lots of suggestions of practical things to help that I would never have thought of myself – such as turning the mirror around.

“Friends are great. But they don’t have training. They’re very good at ‘oh it’s ok’ but in terms of helping you to solve your problems, they’re not so good.”

Amber adds: “Things started bothering me less and less. I realised that normally what was bothering me wasn’t how I looked, but something else.”

“Now I often still think ‘what would my counsellor’ say.”

After her initial fears about seeing a counsellor, Amber realised that she was in control of her sessions – and she was under no pressure to go if she didn’t feel like it.

“School counselling is just there. You don’t have to go out of your way. I felt in control, because I didn’t have to go if I didn’t want to.”

She adds: “It was hard to admit to myself there was a problem. But now, thanks to counselling, I don’t think there is a problem.

“It becomes less of a massive thing in your head when you know how to deal with it and why you’re feeling like that.”


*Not her real name.

Thanks to the staff and students of Bristol Grammar School for their help with our school counselling case studies.

Illustrations and graphics by Emily Catherine Illustration.