Counselling provided Jake* with a “lightbulb moment” at a time when he knew he was crumbling under the stress of a variety of complicated issues in his life.

He describes how he was going through a personality crisis – using excessive confidence to hide his insecurities. It was affecting his friendships.

A friend was depressed. Jake says he wanted to help but felt under-pressure.

Then his parents went through a messy divorce. His grandpa was terminally ill.

 “It was awful. I had to do my exams through it. I was at my wit’s end,” he says.

“I had to go to school and put on a smile.

“But I just ended up crumbling. I thought I need to do something about this. I can’t go on like this forever.


“One day I was so stressed out I had three nosebleeds. I thought, that’s not normal. I’ve got to do something about this.”

Jake sought help from a school counsellor and began to attend weekly sessions.

Relationship of trust

“She let me voice how I was feeling. It helped me see it all in a different light.

“I built a relationship of trust with her. That was reassuring.”

“Yes, you can talk to your friends, but they aren’t under an oath to stay shtum. I didn’t have to worry about this with my counsellor. I could say what I wanted and knew it was not going anywhere.

“There were some big issues in my life that I didn’t want to talk about at first. I spent a long time coming to see the counsellor, before it rose to the point where I felt able to say something.”

Talking to a counsellor helped Jake explore and understand how he was feeling – and what could be done about it.

Lightbulb moment

“Counselling allows you to reach that lightbulb moment. It helps you discover the things that need to change.

“The best thing it does is give you a window into what can change. No one can change you – you need to change yourself,” he says.

“It helped me with new ideas about how to look after myself. It helped me build up my levels of ‘bouncing back’.

“I got to the point where I was ready to take on these new ideas. I realised I didn’t always have to please everyone else.

“Counselling made it much easier than if I was going at it on my own.”

Jake praises his school for having a counsellor.


“With a counsellor at the school, there was the flexibility to get the help when I needed it. I didn’t have to wait on a four-month waiting list, my family didn’t have to pay.

“It meant I could get sorted earlier. I think having access to a counsellor through school means you can get sorted out sooner – before things become bigger problems.

He adds: “I’m a veteran. In year 11 I was probably seeing her once every week, or every two weeks. In year 10 it was probably the same. It just became part of my routine.

“Hopefully I won’t need to go back to counselling, but I definitely wouldn’t worry about sending that email to start it up again if necessary.

“I tell my friends. If you have an issue just go and see the counsellor.

Happy and content

“It doesn’t matter how small you perceive your problem to be, it’s still a problem to you. That small problem can just get bigger and bigger.”

It’s all looking good for Jake as he continues with his studies in the sixth form.

“This is the first time in a while when everything’s become clear. It’s plain sailing now.

“I feel the best I’ve felt since I was about nine.

“Now I’ve got the resilience. I’m very happy and content, ticking along with my A levels.”


*Not his 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.