Helen Manley won the the 2018 BERA Masters Dissertation Award for her dissertation: School-based counselling interventions for the reduction of anxiety in primary school children: a systematic review
The abstract for her dissertation is below:
“One in ten young people between the ages of 5 and 15 have a clinically-diagnosable mental health condition. The most common of these conditions is anxiety. Despite these high numbers, funding cuts severely limit the support available to schools from specialist mental health services. Many schools thus recognise the need to provide more ‘in-house’ support for children who have been identified as anxious. Many schools are considering school-based counselling (SBC) as a potential solution. An apparent paucity of research on SBC, specifically targeted at primary school-aged children, leaves considerable uncertainty about whether this is an effective course of action for those schools.
This systematic review located, appraised and synthesised empirical research, published in peer reviewed journals between 2000 and 2017, on the effects of SBC for primary school-aged children with anxiety. The aim of the review was to investigate the extent and nature of existing research, and if possible, to determine the extent to which SBC is an effective approach to anxiety reduction in this population. Systematic searches of nine electronic databases were carried out in July 2017, yielding eight studies that met the inclusion criteria for the review.
Narrative synthesis of the findings indicates that SBC interventions are associated with reductions in anxiety in primary school children. However, the extent to which these reductions are meaningfully different to alternatives, such as reading stories to children, is not clear.
This systematic review also illustrates that research into SBC for children with anxiety in primary school is still limited, both in terms of its geographical focus and its propensity towards cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) at the apparent expense of other approaches. More importantly, it highlights the paucity of research studies in this area that use robust designs for causal inference: half of the included studies did not include a comparison group of any sort. Implications of these findings, both for schools and future research are discussed and recommendations to address identified gaps in current knowledge are presented.”