counselling for children and young people

how do I find a counsellor for my child?

Your GP or child’s school will be able to give you details of local counselling services for young people. Counselling is sometimes available in schools and may also be provided in youth clubs and advice centres for young people.  Your GP could also refer your child to the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), although not all CAMHS offer counselling services.

To find your local CAMHS service:

  • speak to your GP who can refer you
  • search online for "Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services" in your area
Free online counselling for young people, currently only available in certain parts of England and Wales 

Children and young people's counselling. Some Relate services may charge, this varies locally, so check first.

The Site
Emotional support for young people.

Get Connected
Help for under 25s.

Children can contact ChildLine about anything, big or small.

Bullying UK
For young people being bullied and general advice. 

txtm8, from Living Well
Sex and relationships advice by text for young people living in the London boroughs of Enfield, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and Havering. 

Clued up, from Living Well 
Sex and relationships programme for young women in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth. Includes workshops and tailored support aimed at increasing confidence, as well as sex and relationships advice.

Other organisations who can help

  • UK Council for Psychotherapy: holds the national register of psychotherapists and can give details of local counsellors and psychotherapists.

What is counselling?

Counselling is a way of helping people with personal problems. Counsellors work with a wide range of concerns including anxiety, depression, bereavement, loneliness, self-esteem, difficulties in relationships, self-injury and eating problems.

Counselling is based on building a trusting relationship between counsellor and client. It can help people talk about their experiences and make sense of them. Counselling can allow people to express difficult feelings and to learn how to manage them in a helpful way. Counsellors are trained to listen thoughtfully and carefully to people’s problems without judging or criticising.  They do not give advice but support their clients to make positive decisions for themselves.

What's the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

There is considerable overlap between the two and many similar skills are used in both approaches. A great deal depends on the training of different counsellors and psychotherapists, on their experience and what they hope to achieve. Psychotherapy may take longer and involve greater exploration of someone’s past experiences, in order to make sense of their present life.

Is my child seeing someone who is properly trained?

The main accreditation body for psychoanalytically trained child psychotherapists working in the NHS, public sector and private practice is The Association of Child Psychotherapists

The main accrediting body for counsellors is the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

The main registering body for psychotherapists is the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)

It is a good idea to ask your child's counsellor or psychotherapist about their training, qualifications and experience.

What if my child says private things about my family?

It is important that your child feels free to talk about experiences in the family that may be troubling or confusing. It matters that you give approval to your child to talk to the counsellor. It is understandable you might feel worried about what your child may wish to talk about in counselling. However, you should bear in mind that the strict code of ethics counsellors follow includes clauses about confidentiality. 

The counsellor is not there to judge you or anyone else in your family, their sole purpose is to help your child manage their problems and try to resolve them in a positive way.

Can I ask my child about counselling sessions?

The counselling relationship is very private and personal, and each child will respond differently. Some children may wish to talk to their parents about  sessions, while others, especially teenagers, may wish to keep the content of the sessions to themselves. It is important to be guided by your child and to respect these individual differences. There may be times when your child seems more upset following a counselling session, and this may be because they have been talking about painful feelings. Showing sensitivity to their distress, while also respecting their right to privacy, is a difficult but important balance for parents to achieve.

Can I ask my child’s counsellor how sessions are going?

It is natural that you will want to know how your child is getting on in their counselling. Some counsellors may arrange to meet with you to review progress. They will only do this with your child’s consent and knowledge of what is to be discussed. It is important to remember the counsellor will have agreed to a confidential relationship with your child and has a duty to stick to this. The only very rare exception to this would be if the counsellor thought your child was at serious risk of harming themselves or others.

How long will my child need to see a counsellor for?

The time period is usually decided on at the end of the first meeting between counsellor and client. Many counsellors work for short fixed-term periods such as six or 12 weeks, although some work in a more open-ended way, continuing to provide sessions until the client feels ready to leave.