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Humanistic counselling plus pastoral care as usual versus pastoral care as usual for the treatment of psychological distress in adolescents in UK state schools (ETHOS): a randomised controlled trial

Cooper, Mick, Stafford, Megan Rose, Saxon, David, Beecham, Jennifer, Bonin, Eva-Maria ORCID: 0000-0001-9123-9217, Barkham, Michael, Bower, Peter, Cromarty, Karen, Duncan, Charlie, Pearce, Peter, Rameswari, Tiffany and Ryan, Gemma (2021) Humanistic counselling plus pastoral care as usual versus pastoral care as usual for the treatment of psychological distress in adolescents in UK state schools (ETHOS): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, 5 (3). 178 - 189. ISSN 2352-4642

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Identification Number: 10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30363-1

Abstract

Background: About one in seven adolescents have a mental health disorder in England, UK. School counselling is one of the most common means of trying to address such a problem. We aimed to determine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of school-based humanistic counselling (SBHC) for the treatment of psychological distress in young people in England, UK. Methods: We did a two-arm, individually randomised trial in 18 secondary state-funded schools across the Greater London area of the UK. Participants were randomly assigned (1:1) using a centrally secure randomisation procedure with random permuted blocks to either SBHC plus schools' pastoral care as usual (PCAU), or PCAU alone. Participants were pupils aged 13–16 years who had moderate-to-severe levels of emotional symptoms (measured by a score of ≥5 on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire Emotional Symptoms scale) and were assessed as competent to consent to participate in the trial. Participants, providers, and assessors (who initially assessed and enrolled participants) were not masked but testers (who measured outcomes) were masked to treatment allocation. The primary outcome was psychological distress at 12 weeks (Young Person's Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation measure [YP-CORE]; range 0–40), analysed on an intention-to-treat basis (with missing data imputed). Costs were assessed at 24 weeks (Client Service Receipt Inventory and service logs). The trial was registered with ISRCTN, number ISRCTN10460622. Findings: 329 participants were recruited between Sept 29, 2016, and Feb 8, 2018, with 167 (51%) randomly assigned to SBHC plus PCAU and 162 (49%) to PCAU. 315 (96%) of 329 participants provided data at 12 weeks and scores were imputed for 14 participants (4%). At baseline, the mean YP-CORE scores were 20·86 (SD 6·38) for the SBHC plus PCAU group and 20·98 (6·41) for the PCAU group. Mean YP-CORE scores at 12 weeks were 16·41 (SD 7·59) for the SBHC plus PCAU group and 18·34 (7·84) for the PCAU group (difference 1·87, 95% CI 0·37–3·36; p=0·015), with a small effect size (0·25, 0·03–0·47). Overall costs at 24 weeks were £995·20 (SD 769·86) per pupil for the SBHC plus PCAU group and £612·89 (1224·56) for the PCAU group (unadjusted difference £382·31, 95% CI £148·18–616·44; p=0·0015). The probability of SBHC being more cost-effective reached 80% at a willingness to pay of £390 for a 1-point improvement on the YP-CORE. Five serious adverse events occurred for four participants in the SBHC plus PCAU group, all involving suicidal intent. Two serious adverse events occurred for two participants in the PCAU group, one involving suicidal intent. Interpretation: The addition of SBHC to PCAU leads to small reductions in psychological distress, but at an additional economic cost. SBHC is a viable treatment option but there is a need for equally rigorous evaluation of alternative interventions.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanchi/home
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Personal Social Services Research Unit
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2021 11:48
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:46
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/108907

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