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Domain 1
Mental health and wellbeing

Counselling: Improving mental wellbeing and family dynamics

In 2022–23, our counselling services primarily addressed family and relationship issues (50%) and improving mental health and wellbeing (25%). We provide individual, relationship and family counselling and focus on engagement, trust and collaboration between client and practitioner. This is because research demonstrates that the most important factors in predicting counselling outcomes are common elements such as the therapeutic relationship and being listened to, rather than a particular therapeutic modality (Moloney, 2016). Our practitioners use a variety of counselling strategies, to respond most appropriately to identified client needs.

Family and relationship interventions are characterised by stages that are common to all therapies as illustrated in the counselling client journey (see Counselling client journey).

In 2023, we implemented a new process to collect automated electronic surveys from clients before counselling commences, at regular intervals throughout counselling and at service closure. This data enables us to compare paired average pre- and post-program data in key domains. Client-rated data collected between January and July 2023 indicated improvement in the 4 domains relevant to the service. The greatest improvement was in child wellbeing, with the average rating shifting from ‘poor’ to ‘good’. Other reported improvements were to family functioning, personal and family safety, and mental health and wellbeing (see Counselling outcome measures). The overall positive change for clients across all domains was reported as improving from ‘average’ to ‘good’, with 77% of clients stating they experienced an overall positive change.

headspace: Decreasing emotional distress

Since 2016, we have been delivering headspace services in Gippsland. headspace is an early intervention mental health service for young people aged 12 to 25 years. With an understanding of the specific ways that young people access and interact with services, headspace provides online and telephone support, as well as in-person counselling, information and education programs through centres and outreach locations. headspace highly values the people and systems that surround young people, and offers support for parents, carers and families.

The headspace model is designed to harness collaboration and includes a consortium of local agencies who deliver the various services, as well as providing insight and advice on emerging, developing and local needs. Governance, program development and evaluation at each centre is informed by Youth Advisory Groups consisting of local young people who have lived experience or interest in mental health.
In 2022–23, the top 3 presenting issues young people identified during their first visit to headspace were: feeling sad or depressed (33%), feeling anxious (18%) and problems with family or friend relationships (12%). The primary presenting issue as identified by practitioners was mental health and behaviour (73%).

The Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) is implemented at key intervals throughout service engagement as a measure of headspace clients’ emotional distress. There are 10 questions about emotional states, each with a 5-point scale. Total scores range between 10–50, with scores of 10–15 indicating low distress; 16–21 indicating moderate distress; 22–29 indicating high distress; and 30–50 indicating very high distress. A comparison of the average K10 scores young people recorded at their first and last session across our Bairnsdale, Sale and Wonthaggi centres demonstrates a reduction from 29.3 to 27.5, broadly in line with the headspace national average (see headspace K10 average). The numbers all remain in the ‘high distress’ section but indicate a consistent decrease in reported level of distress.

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