NHS Lanarkshire Youth Counselling Service
The University evaluated a new youth counselling service and helped it secure new funding.
Airdrie Local Health-Care Co-operative set up a youth counselling service in July 2004, giving young people an opportunity to talk in a confidential setting with a qualified counsellor.
One of very few counselling services for young people, it was initially funded for two years as a pilot project, during which its impacts and effectiveness were to be evaluated.
Getting the contract
Quite a few consultancies tendered for the contract to evaluate the project but Liz Bondi and Seamus Prior from University of Edinburgh’s Counselling studies got the contract with Liz Forbat (now Stirling).
“This was not the cheapest option but the team proposed to conduct a qualitative as well as quantitative study which would provide rich and useful data”
How the project was conducted
The data collection included:
- questionnaires circulated to pupils
- focus groups with pupils
- focus groups with young people from the local community
- counselling request and service-user data from the Service
- semi-structured interviews with service-users
- structured interviews with people who refer young people to the service
The report provided thorough quantitative data on the number of users, how many sessions they each had, where they were referred from, waiting times and self-reported change in well-being as a result of the sessions.
The interviews and focus groups were conducted by staff with a combination of research and clinical experience in working with children and young people. For the individual interviews in particular the clinical experience was crucial as the researcher was able to address the research questions at the same time as being mindful of the potential for these conversations to stir up difficult feelings or memories for the young people concerned.
According to Liz Cairns it was the individual interviews in particular that made the impact to funders and secured the future support and expansion of the service:
“The direct quotes from teenagers explaining their feelings before they went to counselling and the impact talking to someone in confidence had on their self-perception and relationships with others were really powerful. Those words, much more than the numbers, demonstrated to those with a strategic role in NHS Lanarkshire and North Lanarkshire Council the need for this type of service. Young people and the local secondary schools embraced the service and its impact continues to be felt throughout Lanarkshire.”
From being the only employee, Liz Cairns now leads a team of eight in what has now become the NHS Lanarkshire Youth Counselling Service.
This article was published on Nov 19, 2009