Counselling for young people and young adults in the voluntary and community sector: An overview of the demographic profile of clients and outcomes

 13 December 2018



To determine the demographic profile of clients accessing voluntary and community sector (VCS) counselling services for young people and young adults, and to undertake the first systematic evaluation of outcomes.


Naturalistic, non‐experimental study design.


A total of 2,144 clients were recruited from nine services in England. Data on gender, age, ethnicity, number of sessions, problem descriptions, and initial levels of psychological distress were collected from clients. Calculations of reliable and clinically significant change, repeated measures t‐tests, effect size estimates, and moderation analyses were undertaken to determine whether pre–post change, over an average of 5.1 (SD = 5.3) sessions, was significant and which variables predicted outcomes. Levels of service satisfaction were also recorded.


The demographic profile of clients accessing VCS services was distinct to those accessing statutory and school‐based counselling services, with a greater representation of females, ‘older’ clients, and clients from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups. Clients accessing VCS counselling services presented with multiple and complex needs. Statistically significant reductions in psychological distress were observed with effect sizes ranging from .64 to .80. High levels of service satisfaction were expressed by clients.


This study establishes that clinical outcomes in the VCS are comparable to those reported in school‐based and statutory mental health services in the United Kingdom. VCS services were perceived as being highly accessible and appear able to reach marginalized groups who may not be accessing other services.

Practitioner points

  • VCS services in the United Kingdom may be more accessible to young people from marginalized groups, such as those from BME backgrounds, compared to statutory and school‐based counselling services.
  • Counselling in VCS services is associated with significant short‐term reductions in psychological distress, at a level comparable with the statutory and educational sectors.
  • Clients accessing counselling in VCS services report relatively high levels of service satisfaction.



Charlie Duncan Barbara Rayment James Kenrick Mick Cooper


Psycological and Psychotherapy

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