Medicine, Mind and Adolescence, 1993 - 1994 - VIII, 2 - IX,1

The Youth Counselling Center

A. Biscarin, G. Bioli, E. Carpano, L. Toccaceli, D. Verducci

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The Youth Counselling Centre opened in Perugia in October 1990 owing to the findings of a study team that examined conditions in the community to determine social needs and emerging problems.

The team gave priority to teenagers since figures showed that few under 18 were using the already existing Family Counselling Centre except in emergencies.

The team decided to set up a special centre for counselling young people. The team would seek to expand, improve, publicize and facilitate access to and use of the consulting service, and more specifically assist in matters related to sex, social relations and procreation, as well as encourage prevention of social and health problems through sex and education.

A social worker, a gynaecologist, a midwife, and an external psychologist specialized in sexology made up the team and all were amply qualified by professional training and dedication to make the Centre a success. A physician, specialized in hygiene and associated with the project, was assigned to coordinate the team's work in and outside the Health District. This year, in response to many requests, an andrologist joined the Centre.

Access is free. No reservations or special procedures are necessary. The social worker contributes to providing a welcoming atmosphere.

Use of the service has grown steadily from 705 the first year, 824 the second, and 940 (754 girls and 186 boys) during the first nine months of this year (1993).

More young women are using the service than the "so-far" timid men but this is expected to change with the arrival of the andrologist.

While the Centre is for people under 20, many in older age groups who still identify themselves with teenagers, psychologically and socially (confirming findings by the World Health Organization on the lengthening period of adolescence), have inquired about access to the service. Staff members provide answers and assistance for all those who come, but their focus is on the14 to 18 year olds.

Most of the questions asked to the gynaecologist and midwife concern contraception. Unless prompted by the staff, little is asked about sexually transmitted diseases or disease prevention (the pap test, for example). Psychology and sexology, through the gynaecologist who is also a sex consultant, account for 10% of the Centre's work.

The Centre has become a reference point in the territory as relations have been established with local schools and social agencies. Meetings have been held on contraception and on every facet of sexuality, from anatomy, physiology, and psychology, to emotional and relational aspects.

Questionnaires have been distributed to assess users' satisfaction with the service and how to improve its quality and continue meeting the real needs of the young.

Key Words: Adolescence, Counselling, Prevention, Youth's Assistance, Contraception

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