We’ve written to the Mental Health Minister Nadine Dorries and the Health and Social Care Committee to share the latest evidence on availability and competence of counsellors trained to work with children and young people (CYP).

It follows inaccurate comments made in recent weeks regarding the counselling workforce for children and young people from Ms Dorries in verbal evidence to the committee and on social media.

Our points are set out below.

Highly trained

BACP registered and accredited CYP counsellors are highly trained specialist mental health practitioners working within a CYP competence framework, based on the latest research evidence linked to safe and effective practice.

Findings from our recent workforce survey indicated that around a third of our 58,000 members – approximately 19,000 counsellors – have undertaken specific training for working therapeutically with children and young people.

More than half of those trained to work in this area (55.5%) have also indicated they would like more paid client work and, on average, have capacity to take on an extra five clients per week.

This means our members are available to work with more than 51,000 additional young people per week, if commissioned to do so via government funding.

Our members could easily, efficiently and effectively meet the current demand and step into contracted work to alleviate the pressure on other services. They can provide counselling interventions either face-to-face, remotely via video or phone platforms, or can offer a mixture of both.

Our recent longitudinal survey of children and young people’s counselling provision across the UK during 2020 to 2021 demonstrated that the workforce is competent in delivering counselling remotely, with 94% of CYP counsellors surveyed using the time during this first lockdown to upskill in this area.

Positive impact

There’s a growing body of evidence highlighting the significant positive impact that, for example, school-based counselling can have on children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

The recently published ETHOS trial[1] (effectiveness and cost-effectiveness randomised controlled trial of school-based humanistic counselling) found that young people who were randomised to up to 10 sessions of counselling showed significant reductions in psychological distress compared to those who only had access to a school’s usual pastoral care provision.

These young people also showed significant improvements in their self-esteem and progress towards personal goals compared to those in the control group.

This evidence is exceptionally important given the majority of young people access school-based counselling for help with family issues, anger, and self-esteem[2],[3], rather than more diagnostic issues such as depression and anxiety.

The findings from ETHOS demonstrated these positive results were still maintained six months later, suggesting that school-based counselling continues to have benefits in the short-to-medium term.


We continue to campaign for funded provision of school-based counselling services in England as one of the options children and young people may choose to access alongside other interventions available in schools.

School counselling provision often bridges the gap between lower-level mental health interventions provided by schools – or in some areas via Mental Health Support Teams – and referrals to CAMHs (Child and Adolescent Mental Health services).

We continue to raise the issue with the government that the reach within the Mental Health Support Teams is limited, with only 35% of children and young people having access to low level mental health support interventions by 2023.

Where a counsellor is integrated into the school setting, both staff and students benefit from a trained on-site mental health specialist who has had at least four years training to work therapeutically with children and young people, using a range of integrative approaches, often working systemically and with understanding and depth into the impact of trauma on a child’s life.

There is no shortage of trained children and young people counsellors in England.

There is, however, a shortage of investment to fund posts on the scale that is clearly needed, ensuring all children, no matter where they live, have access to the right support, at the right time.

We continue to put pressure on ministers, engage with their officials and campaign to drive home these clear messages. We’re striving to secure more children and young people specialist paid counselling roles to meet the current shortfall in the mental health workforce.

[1] Cooper, M., Stafford, M. R., Saxon, D., Beecham, J., Bonin, E. M., Barkham, M., Bower, P., Cromarty, K., Duncan, C., Pearce, P., Rameswari, T. & Ryan, G. (2021). Humanistic counselling plus pastoral care as usual versus pastoral care as usual for the treatment of psychological distress in adolescents in UK state schools (ETHOS): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, 5(3), 178-189. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30363-1

[2] Cooper, M. (2013). School-based counselling in UK secondary schools: a review and critical evaluation. Available at https://www.bacp.co.uk/media/2054/counselling-minded-school-based-counselling-uk-secondary-schools-cooper.pdf

[3] Rupani, P., Cooper, M., McArthur, K., Pybis, J., Cromarty, K., … & Turner, N. (2014). The goals of young people in school-based counselling and their achievement of these goals. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 14(4), 306-314.