Saturday, 24 November 2012

Telephone counselling - increasing access to therapy in the UK

When thinking about the possibility of therapy, have you ever considered telephone counselling? While it may not be be suitable for everyone, it can have certain advantages.

Stepping stones across the water.For instance, if you live in a rural area, where there is no easy access to a local counsellor, it may be that telephone counselling could be a viable alternative. It could also be that you would like a particular type of counselling, that is not generally available in your area. Therefore telephone counselling might give you more choice in terms of type of therapeutic approach. You can choose someone from anywhere across the country.

Even if there are local counsellors available, perhaps you are unable to travel. Whether you have a disability that prevents you from easily travelling; or because of family or work commitments, it could be that you just can't get there.

When you have limited time with a busy lifestyle or a range of demands on your time, actually making time for therapy can be a challenge in itself. Yet often, feeling that you have too demands on your time is stressful...  So when you need it most, you are least able to access therapy! Telephone counselling means no time travelling to appointments and so can be more easily fitted in.

While regular weekly appointment times can be the most effective for counselling, flexible times for those unable to keep same time appointments each week can be easier to arrange with telephone work. It is worth checking if your intended counsellor is able to do this and whether they think variable appointment times would be appropriate for you.

What can you then expect from telephone counselling? In many ways you may find it not so different from face-to-face work. Generally it will be at a regular time with each session lasting maybe fifty minutes or an hour. The counsellor usually asks you to call them at the pre-arranged time on their landline.

While some people may find it difficult at first to feel comfortable talking over the telephone, others may find it almost too easy. An experienced telephone counsellor should be aware of this and do their best to help individuals feel comfortable and secure enough to work safely and effectively.  In this way work can proceed at an appropriate pace with time to reflect and process difficult feelings, as it would in face-to-face work. Of course, this is not to say that telephone counselling will be suitable for everyone. Some may need the added security of the face-to-face environment.

While telephone counselling may not appeal or be suitable for everyone, it can be a viable choice for some who might otherwise not be able to access therapy.  Increasing access to therapy seems to me very worthwhile.

(NB I am writing specifically about the UK.  Some other countries, or particular states in other countries, may have regulations prohibiting offering therapeutic services out of their jurisdiction area. My comments therefore are directed at UK individuals thinking about telephone counselling, though those in other countries may find the general points of some interest.)

Lin Travis Counselling Services