Background

XenZone is the organisation that provides Kooth, an online platform supporting children and young people aged 11-25.

The service aims to engage with young people in schools, in their regular environments, and within the wider community to intervene early and prevent ever increasing numbers of young people from reaching crisis point with their mental health and emotional wellbeing.  The service adopts a modern and innovative platform, responding to the internet and social media becoming a popular medium for interaction.

Key learning

  • Counselling goals can be used as a complimentary form of feedback alongside end-of-session questionnaires and satisfaction questionnaires to shape service improvement
  • The act of articulating and recognising a goal in itself can be an aid to improving the emotional or mental wellbeing of a young person
  • Developing a goal alongside a counsellor is an important part of forging a strong therapeutic alliance
  • Children and Young People use online counselling differently to face-to-face counselling, and therefore require different outcomes measurement tools
  • Anonymity and accessibility drive the type of goals set by young people, with more goals relating to intimate relationships and the young person’s personal approach to others, when set online rather than in a face-to-face setting.

Outcomes and impact

User-led goals-based outcomes feed into XenZone’s core values by promoting choice, flexibility and autonomy of journey, as well as strengthening the relationship between user and counsellor.

XenZone developed an interactive online tool (that can also be used in off-line settings) to enable young people to autonomously, with the support of a counsellor, come up with their uniquely codified goals around self-relating to others, inter- and intra-personal goals, recording progress or completion over a fixed-time period.

In initial research comparing goal setting within online and face-to-face counselling, it was evident that young people developed more goals in the ‘goals of self-related to others’ category online than in face-to-face goal-setting environments. This difference was attributed to online services being used by young people as a ‘first point of call’ and possibly a ‘psychological triage’, which generated an output of goals which typically involved young people reaching out to others, such as a teacher, for support.

In 2017 (April ‘16-April ‘17) over 8,000 goals were set on Kooth, centred around issues including assertiveness, getting further help and overcoming anxiety. These three types of goals progressed an average of 7.25 points during the year they were set.

Recent data collated by the Education Policy Institute found that 16.9% of goals set by young people online were related to intimate relationships, whereas none of the goals set by those using face-to-face services were related to this. This further highlights the differences between online and face-to-face, particularly the power of anonymity online, allowing for a more intimate discourse to emerge through online goal setting. The comparison between goals set online and those developed in a face-to-face setting helps to demonstrate what young people are seeking when they approach an online service. Determining how they can best be supported in, initially, creating goals, and most importantly, accessing the tools and support required to reach those goals.

Next steps

There will be further evaluation of the service Kooth provides, including the outcomes measures which are used to ensure that Kooth is evidencing the impact being made for children, young people and CAMHS.

Many thanks to Aaron Selfi for providing us with this case study.