How can I help you? an exploration of the experience of telephone helpline workers in a crisis intervention centre

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Roche, Monica
Issue Date
MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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This study sets out to explore the work of a crisis intervention centre with particular emphasis on, a general exploration of the services provided by the telephone helpline workers and that of the professional therapists. The discreteness of the telephone helpline service is examined as well as the connection, if any, between the helpline and the face-to-face therapy service. The importance of self-care in a crisis centre is also investigated. These issues are examined within a humanistic/integrative psychotherapy framework. Interviews were conducted with three telephone helpline workers and two therapists in a Dublin city centre crisis centre. The interviews were analysed using qualitative thematic analysis. My exploration showed that that there were many connections between the two services, with the benefit being experienced mostly by the therapists. The interviews also demonstrate that the threat of vicarious trauma for the telephone workers validated the notion, that the work they perform on the phone, is in many ways akin to professional therapy. While my exploration of the telephone helpline didn‟t claim to be an examination of telephone counselling in the true sense, nevertheless exploring the telephone helpline workers day to day experiences revealed that the helpline has a lot in common with actual counselling by phone, with in some instances, the only difference being the length of time spent on the phone by the telephone helpline worker. Overall the findings pointed to the fact that, the work which is currently undertaken by the helpline workers, has many of the characteristics of humanistic and integrative psychotherapy as practiced by professional therapists. Author keywords: Telephone helpline, crisis centre, face-to-face counselling, telephone counselling