This page includes three reports in total, two reports on research carried out by the University of Edinburgh, Counselling and Psychotherapy department in review of feedback received from clients of Simpson House Counselling from client evaluation questionnaires and an abridged report on research conducted by Simpson House Counselling on 'What difference does counselling make?'
We did a research study involving six in-depth interviews with clients from Simpson House, living on low incomes, who had used drugs and received counselling for at least six months.
We wanted to give clients a chance to say what they thought of the service. We wanted to find out what difference counselling had made and what clients had found helpful and also unhelpful. We wanted to learn from clients, to inform how we work as counsellors.
The study has shown how people who are using drugs and are on low incomes can make significant changes in their lives through participating in counselling for six months or more.
Before counselling: clients described experiences such as being self destructive, isolated, feeling they were losing it, and were unsure about coming for counselling.
Through counselling: clients experienced personal growth, increased care for themselves, were able to relate to others differently, had an improved quality of life, changed their drug using, had actively participated in counselling and were able to judge the services of the counsellor.
The study also highlights for counsellors what is helpful and unhelpful for clients, and this can aid counsellors in their work. Both counsellor and client are actively involved in making change a possibility through working together in counselling, but ultimately it is the client who changes themselves.
This is what we found out in more detail…
Through counselling clients experienced personal growth and increased care for themselves.
All clients felt they had made progress through counselling, such as increases in confidence, self-esteem, self-acceptance, motivation, assertiveness, and becoming more able to deal with feelings.
All clients spoke of being isolated in different ways such as feeling lost or disconnected from others, being fearful of people, feeling marginalised through heavy drug use and that they had lost their social skills.
Through counselling clients became able to relate to others differently.
Clients saw improvements in how they related to others including becoming less violent towards others, more able to relate, to respect others and make changes in relationships, and more able to ask for help.
Clients spoke about how before counselling they had a sense of lack of control or ‘losing it’ in relation to aspects of living such as drug use, physical health problems, behaviour, and debt. Some had felt that their life was being destroyed.
Through counselling clients achieved an improved quality of life and a changed relationship with drug use.
Counselling had lead to an improved quality of life for all including becoming more able to take opportunities, consider returning to work, come off benefits, make decisions, take exercise, and have more structure in their lives.
All reported changes in their relationship with drug using, such as stopping or decreasing drug use, increases in understanding reasons for use and reasons for relapse, taking responsibility for drug using and feelings towards using changing.
No clients reported being confident about trying counselling at the outset. Some doubted the value of it, were unsure of how it could help them, lacked understanding of what was involved, or were scared or daunted by the prospect of speaking personally to someone.
All clients actively participated in counselling, including working on issues, expressing emotion in sessions, and suggesting changes in how they and the counsellor worked together.
Each client identified one or more aspects of their current or previous counsellor’s personalities and skills that held significance for them such as stating that they could tell if a counsellor was sincere and really cared. One client offered a suggestion for counsellors based on comparisons of his experience of counselling with different counsellors.
Clients spoke of things that had been unhelpful for them in some counselling relationships. This included an inadequate relationship with the counsellor or lack of choice regarding a counsellor, particularly related to being able to choose a male or female counsellor. Aspects of an inadequate relationship with the counsellor included feeling that the counsellor appeared superior, clients feeling misunderstood, judged, unsafe and feeling a lack of connection with the counsellor.
The counselling relationships that were helpful for clients included these elements:
These are things that both client and counsellor are responsible for:
These are things that the counsellor is responsible for:
Hillarie J. Higgins, Counselling and Psychotherapy, University of Edinburgh, February 2010
Amanda Burston and Dr. Michael Gallagher, Counselling and Psychotherapy, University of Edinburgh, February 2010
We are interested to hear your comments or questions on this research and if you are, or have been a client of Simpson House Counselling, to hear your comments or questions about your own experience of the counselling service.
Questionnaires are available at reception for clients to provide anonymous feedback on the service.