Investigating what Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning students seek in a counselling service

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Emma Chow, Master of Counselling and Psychotherapy, and Pol Dominic Miles-McCann, PhD, Master of Counselling and Psychotherapy, Senior Lecturer, Australian College of Applied Psychology, psychotherapist.



Adolescents enrolled in community Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) programs frequently experience a wide range of serious life issues that can disrupt their educational experience, and these students may benefit from the application of counselling. The current study examines how organisations providing the VCAL can implement effective counselling services that will be utilised by students. At present, no existing studies examine what factors would encourage VCAL students to utilise a mental health service provided by their educational program. Data was collected through a web-based qualitative survey. Thematic analysis was applied to the survey responses, and the themes that emerged included interpersonal stress, desire for mutual respect in counselling, and that youth prefer to be autonomous. Participants expressed wanting counselling services which are accessible, flexible, support their own problem solving, and encourage a warm, respectful therapeutic relationship.


Keywords: Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning, VCAL, adolescent, mental health, autonomy, engagement, thematic analysis


Address for correspondence:
Emma Chow