School-based counsellors and psychotherapists

An urgent need

Letter of the Day
Letter of the Day

Sir, – There are major strategic gaps in the Government’s national pilot for school-based counsellors and psychotherapists. One-to-one counselling is not provided for Deis schools in large urban areas. This is a remarkable omission given the high levels of need regarding trauma and adverse childhood experiences in these contexts. The recent Department of Education and Skills announcement of mental health support provisions for secondary schools completely omits one-to-one specialist counselling supports.

Generalist wellbeing programmes and generalist staff roles are really inadequate as a response for coping with the complexity of students’ lives experiencing trauma, adverse childhood experiences and anxiety post-pandemic.

The scope of the national primary pilot, currently confined to only seven rural counties, is further subject to an indefensible restriction of only six counselling sessions per child.

This artificial restriction is not based on the needs of the individual child, it shows little understanding of the time needed to build up relations of trust with children experiencing trauma and adverse childhood experiences. This arbitrary restriction must be removed immediately.


It is to be emphasised that there is not a shortage of counsellors and therapists for a significant expansion of counsellors and therapists into secondary schools and urban Deis contexts. The Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP) alone, now brought into the national pilot, has over 1,000 therapists.

We note that Taoiseach Simon Harris brought funding for significant additions of counsellors to third-level institutions post-pandemic.

School-based counsellors and therapists are a routine feature of many education systems internationally. Successive Joint Oireachtas Education Committee reports have given the key recommendation that “Emotional counselling and therapeutic supports should be provided in all primary and secondary schools as an urgent priority”.

The astonishing neglect by the Department of Education of secondary schools and Deis schools for such vital supports must be directly addressed by the Minister for Education Norma Foley in the next budget with a substantial fund for two new strands of the national pilot – for urban Deis schools and for secondary schools. – Yours, etc,


Professor of Psychology of Education,


DCU Educational

Disadvantage Centre,

Dublin City University,

Dublin 9;


Chief Executive Officer,

Irish Council for Psychotherapy,

Dublin 2;



Our Lady of Victories

BNS Ballymun,

(On behalf of Ballymun Principals Network),

Dublin 9.