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What issues bring primary school children to counselling?

What issues bring primary school children to counselling?

Learn more about our research study into what issues primary school children bring to counselling.

This research study, "What issues bring primary school children to counselling? A service evaluation of presenting issues across 291 schools working with Place2Be", was originally published in the peer-reviewed journal Counselling and Psychotherapy Research (CPR) in 2020.

If you have any questions about this research or any of our other research projects, don't hesitate to contact our Research and Evaluation team at researchteam@place2be.org.uk.



We wanted to examine the types and severity of mental health and wellbeing difficulties that primary school children have when they start counselling with Place2Be.

What we did

We collected data from our counsellors’ assessments of 8,893 children referred to Place2Be in 291 UK primary schools over three years. Our counsellors used a list of 21 possible issues relating to children’s mental health and wellbeing, including:

  • anxiety
  • bullying
  • eating difficulties
  • sleeping difficulties
  • family tensions.

Counsellors rated the severity of issues which were present for each child.


We found that most children referred to counselling had more than one presenting issue at assessment, and 55% had at least one severe presenting issue.

The most common issues for children were:

  • generalised anxiety
  • low self-esteem
  • family tensions
  • mood swings.

Girls were more likely to present with all types of anxiety and family tensions, while attention problems and mood swings were more common in boys.

Our findings show that children referred for counselling in primary schools often present with multiple difficulties and these are often severe. This indicates the need for systematic and detailed assessments to pick up on the child’s difficulties and any issues which may be surrounding them, such as tensions at home. Good links with external agencies are also essential to ensure children receive the right support.


Read the full research paper

You can read, download and share the full research paper, "Longer-term effects of school-based counselling in UK primary schools: A service evaluation of presenting issues across 291 schools working with Place2Be", below.

Research contributors 

Our research team worked on this research project with academics from the University of Exeter Medical School and the University of Cambridge

Individual contributors to this research were:

  • Dr Kati Toth
  • Sarah Golden
  • Professor Tamsin Ford, CBE
  • Dr Lamiya Samad
  • Patrick Johnson
  • Rachel Hayes.