Secondary school counselling supervision and the impact of the work environment

Imogen Harries, Sheila Spong

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The purpose of this study was to investigate how the secondary school as a working environment for counsellors in the South West of England impacted on what they required from their supervision.


Seven experienced school counsellors participated in semi-structured interviews. Participants all had worked for at least 1 year as a school counsellor (m = 4.7), and had been qualified as a counsellor for at least 1 year (m = 7). Methods of analysing interview transcripts were heavily influenced by grounded theory.


One core concept (‘The counsellor as part of a system’) linked five main themes (‘the ‘context’ and ‘content’’, ‘separation of roles’, ‘boundaries and confidentialities’, ‘the goals of the environment’, and ‘managing risk’). Counsellors identified four main requirements from their supervisors: a need to be external to the school, a knowledge and understanding of risk and child protection legislation, an understanding of the working context of the counsellor and how that impacts on their work, and a knowledge of how to work therapeutically with this age group.


Findings indicated that school counsellors do have specific needs from supervision in order to fulfil their therapeutic role within secondary schools. This has important implications for supervisors and trainers. More nationwide research is recommended in this area of supervision, as well as the supervisory needs of school counsellors in primary schools.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-156
JournalCounselling and Psychotherapy Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • counselling
  • grounded theory
  • secondary school
  • supervision


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