Advantages and disadvantages of telephone counselling
Telephone counselling has a number of advantages and disadvantages over traditional face-to-face counselling delivery. These advantages and disadvantages differ depending on whether the telephone counselling is of the crisis counselling and referral type or of the ongoing therapy model. The relative anonymity which telephone counselling affords is a distinct advantage of this mode of counselling service delivery (Evans, Smith, Werkhoven, Fox & Pritzl, 1986; Evans, Fox, Pritzl, & Halar, 1984). Clients who are well known in a community may be reluctant to seek face to face counselling from services located within the community. They are, however, able to anonymously access telephone counselling services, even those which may be based within the local community. Participants to telephone counselling groups are not anonymous to the therapist, as one person has to be responsible for initiating and coordinating calls. Participants are anonymous to each other and are encouraged to provide at least their first name for identification purposes. In such group settings, they are able to share as much or as little of themselves as they feel comfortable. The anonymity and lack of physical presence may have other positive effects on group telephone counselling sessions. The anonymity afforded by telephone counselling may equalise the power structure which can develop in face-to-face group meetings (Evans et al., 1986) so that a participant’s physical size or the presence of a visible physical deformity do not influence an individual’s participation or others interaction with them. It has also been suggested that telephone counselling encouraged participants to talk as this was the only means for communication available and lack of possible intimidation due to face-to-face contact (Evans et al., 1984 ). The use of telephone counselling as a suitable mode of therapy delivery prior to or between face-to-face counselling sessions has been emphasised (Swinson et al, 1995; Flynn et al 1993). Clients resistant to attending face to face counselling for one or more reasons may be supported by telephone counselling until such time as they are ready for these sessions. Indeed, clients whose goal it is to attend face to face counselling but will not attend, for example due to agoraphobia, are particularly amenable to help via telephone counselling (Swinson et al., 1995). Telephone counselling has also been beneficial as a supportive net between face to face sessions (Coman, 1996; Flynn et al., 1993). One of the advantages of telephone counselling not cited in the literature, but which the author has had reported in his work as a telephone counsellor, is the control and empowerment provided to clients by the telephone. Telephone clients have reported how much easier it is to be forthright and say what they feel over the telephone compared to face-to-face counselling. They have also expressed comfort with the relative ease with which they can terminate the telephone counselling session if they wish to do so. It is much easier to simply hang up from a telephone conversation than it is to walk out of a therapist’s office. Increased client access to services is another major advantage, with clients able to access services from the comfort of their own home, or from work or from any place they have access to a telephone (Evans et al., 1986; Swinson et al., 1995; Zhu, Stretch, Balabanis, Rosbrook, Sadler, & Pierce, 1996). Telephone counselling has been demonstrated to be helpful in reducing the affective concerns of physically disabled people which is sometimes the only viable intervention for affective problems or inactivity -related complications for severely disabled clients (Evans et al, 1986). Swinson et al. (1995) concluded that a major benefit of telephone counselling was that people who would otherwise have been deprived of specialised care were able to access such care with minimal disruption to their lives. Telephone counselling is an ideal substitute for face-to-face counselling when the client has a mobility disability or when they live in a rural or isolated location.