Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): one to one support and support groups

Last updated: 2 Feb 2021 - see all updates
Published: 22 Dec 2020

Guidance to help people attending or running support groups or one to one support (like therapy or counselling) during the coronavirus pandemic.

22 Dec 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19): one to one support and support groups

Guidance to help people attending or running support groups or one to one support (like therapy or counselling) during the pandemic.

Mental health is a top priority and we are making sure that everyone who needs support can get access to appropriate services.

At a glance

  • one to one support and support groups are more important than ever and should continue to run
  • they should be run online, if at all possible
  • if that is not possible, check your COVID-19 protection level to see if you can meet in-person
  • if you do meet in-person, be sure to follow the guidance below

What we mean by support group or one to one support

A support group or one to one support means any kind of support for people’s wellbeing including, but not limited to, talking therapy, counselling, carer support, group therapy or any other support for mental illness, weight loss support, addiction support, victim support or bereavement support. Sometimes support groups and one to one support are called “Support services” in our guidance. Support services do not include Close contact retail services, such as massage, which are covered by separate Covid protection levels guidance.

How to decide if you should meet in-person

We have issued guidance that remote working should remain the default position for those who can, to minimise risk of infection with COVID-19. For the same reason, one to one support or support groups should be delivered remotely (e.g. online or by phone), as much as possible. Where this is not possible (for example, where remote delivery makes the support session much less effective compared to meeting in-person), you may be able to meet in-person. You should find out the COVID-19 protection level for your area and read the below guidance on meeting under different Covid protection levels to find out if you can meet in-person.

Meeting under different covid protection levels

At COVID-19 local protection levels 0 to 3, one to one support and support groups can operate in-person, if meeting remotely is not possible .

Under COVID-19 local protection level 4 (Stay at Home), meeting in-person is only to take place if online meeting is not possible and the one to one support or support group is essential.

One to one support or support groups are essential if the participant’s health (including their mental health) and wellbeing would be significantly impacted by non-attendance.

What you need to think about if you do meet in-person

Where one to one support or support groups are taking place in-person, everyone needs to follow the guidance set out below.

If you are coming together for one to one support or support groups, you are not restricted by the restrictions on gatherings as set out in the Levels regulations (including the “rule of six”). This is true whether your support is a self-help support group or delivered by a professional. In relation to child contact centres services please see the specific guidance.

If you can keep 2 metres apart from other people during the session, face coverings do not need to be worn. If you can’t keep 2 metres away from anyone who is not part of your household, and you are not exempt, you will need to wear a face covering during the support session.

All participants must:

  • maintain a distance of at least 2 metres apart, as well as follow our FACTS measures and advice on the NHS Inform website 
  • wear a face covering (unless exempt) when entering and moving around indoor venues for support services
  • maintain hand and cough hygiene
  • avoid touching hard surfaces with their hands
  • wash their hands when they arrive, when they leave, when they get home and especially before eating or after touching surfaces
  • keep rooms well ventilated – consider opening windows or a door

Guidance for visiting support service venues

All premises for support services will need to follow Health Protection Scotland rules to ensure appropriate infection prevention and control measures to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19. You will need to follow guidance on safer workplaces, such as changing the layout of a room to ensure physical distancing and any appropriate mitigation measures. There may be extra rules that must be followed, depending on where your in-person support is taking place. If it is in a healthcare or hospitality premises, specific guidance will apply.

When meeting in a non-healthcare setting, you will need to follow this guidance from Health Protection Scotland. If you are organising the support service, you need to give extra thought to receptions and waiting areas, especially those of multi-use buildings, to minimise the time attendees spend in those areas and ensure people wear face coverings when they come in and out of those areas.


Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

First published: 22 Dec 2020 Last updated: 2 Feb 2021 -