Although it might be something that they are often afraid to talk about openly with friends and relatives, there are times in life where people feel stressed and/or have a problem and they need to seek professional help. In such cases, expert counselling services offer vital assistance. Whether you are a psychotherapist or work for an organisation that provides advice to victims of domestic abuse, you are in a position to provide valuable support to service users.
But first people need to know how to find you. Try to offer as many different options as possible those people in need of help to get in touch with you. The process of admitting you have a problem you need help with can be difficult, so having 24-hour telephone helplines that are free to call and comprehensive online support can go some way towards ensuring that people can talk to a counsellor or healthcare professional when they feel ready to do so.
There are, of course, times when people would prefer to speak to somebody face-to-face, so it is important to make sure your in-person counselling facilities are as welcoming as possible. Remember that visitors, especially those who are coming to you for the first time, may feel quite anxious and nervous, so doing everything possible to put them at ease should be your top priority. This means that, among other things, receptionists and other frontline staff should be patient, understanding and have a positive demeanour. Just seeing a smiling face might be the first step some people need to know that help is at hand.
Of course, problems like depression or suffering a relationship breakdown can be a cause of upset and frustration. That’s why it’s important to ensure that anything clients say will remain confidential. You might think this is something that goes without saying, but it is often worth giving service users extra reassurances that their situation will not be discussed with their relatives or GP without their consent, especially children and teenagers.
It’s also a good idea to ask if people would like a tea or coffee, either while they are waiting in reception or when their counselling session starts. Sometimes, the simple offer of a hot drink can be all it takes for visitors to feel more relaxed and want to open up about the problems they are facing. When doing so, you might want to consider using a branded mug or cup. By having your organisation’s logo clearly visible on a mug, you can give clients the impression that you are there to help.
Whatever circumstances you’re presented with, you should – of course – take a non-judgemental and sensitive approach. Service users need to feel like they are being listened to. Consider whether some literature would help service users research the issue further. Ensure you also provide your contact details such as your office address, telephone number and email address. That way, people will be able to remember how they can get in touch with you again should they have any queries about the advice you have given them or wish to book another session.
Are you a counsellor or healthcare professional? How do you go about reassuring visitors and providing help and advice to those who are in need?