Phone counseling is a relatively new phenomenon in the counseling field.
I have always been a bit leery of it because I am a very visual person, able to note very subtle changes in expression, which indicate internal changes for my client, which often lead to excellent insights from exploration.
However, I am reading research that says that when we are deprived of one sensory avenue, others take over, like the auditory system.
That makes great sense to me, and I am confident that I could hear subtle changes in intonation as well as I see subtle changes in expression.
That being said, the usual professional responsibilities still apply to telephone counseling.
For example, Haas, Benedict, and Kobos (1996) explored the risks, benefits, and the ethical implications of phone psychotherapy. They point out that there is a time savings in eliminating the need for traveling to a therapist's office, which is not a trivial consideration for prospective clients who have limited time off from work. However it is much easier to identify the therapist's credentials when visiting the office and seeing visible diplomas, licenses, etc. In regard to ethical issues, they state that the use of the telephone does not change the therapist's obligations to provide sound, competent services, the obligation to avoid harm to consumers, the obligation to make explicit financial arrangements, the obligation to protect confidentiality, the obligation to avoid deceit in public statements, and the obligation to obtain informed consent from consumers. They also point out the difficulty of ensuring the client's immediate safety should the client need hospitalization. They conclude that the therapist has a responsibility to continually assess both the process and outcomes of telephone treatment.
Phone counseling refers to any type of psychological service performed over the telephone. Telephone counseling ranges from individual, couple or group psychotherapy with a professional therapist to psychological first aid provided by para-professional counselors.
In-person therapists often advise clients to make use of telephone crisis counseling to provide the client with an avenue to obtain support outside of therapy if they cannot be reached in an emergency or at the conclusion of a therapeutic relationship. Researchers have begun observing a growing trend in which licensed psychotherapists and psychologists are now seeing at least some of their clients via the telephone.
A body of research exists comparing the efficacy of telephone counseling to in-person counseling and to no treatment. A recent study found that more than half of clients (58%) who had experienced both in-person and phone counseling preferred phone counseling.
A 2002 study found that phone counseling clients rate their counseling relationship similarly to in-person clients.
Phone counseling has been established as an effective treatment for diagnoses ranging from depression to agoraphobia.
"Crisis" hotlines also provide telephone support services. These may be state-funded or provided by churches or charities and often serve the primary function of suicide prevention. However, many lines also accept calls from people who are not in active suicidal crisis.
The term "emotional support helpline" is sometimes used to avoid the implication that a caller must be in crisis to use services. Some emotional support services employ email & messaging technologies.
Quitlines are helplines that offer advanced treatment for addiction and behavior change. Quitlines should not be confused with centralized call centers offering advice in a wide spectrum of fields for the purpose of receiving and transmitting a large volume of requests.
Child helplines specialize in offering information, support, advice or counseling to people 18 years of age or younger.
Child Helpline International, an international network of child helplines, was formed in 2003 to support the development of child helplines and enable the information gathered by child helplines around the world on children's rights and welfare issues to be assembled for advocacy purposes.
Advantages over in-person therapy
Unlike other forms of counseling, telephone counseling is potentially free of certain constraining factors that affect traditional therapy, including geography, time, duration, and cost, making this form of counseling more accessible for a number of people who would be unable to attend traditional psychotherapy. It also provides a degree of anonymity that is comforting to some callers, reducing the intimidation that some people may feel at the prospect of seeking treatment with a traditional in-person therapist and encouraging disclosure.
Disadvantages over in-person therapy
Being physically present with your counselor may help you feel more connected with him or her; the telephone may contribute to "distance" in the therapeutic relationship. Some people feel safer letting themselves become emotional in the physical presence of another person.
Because the client often calls from a location that is part of their day-to-day life, calls often center around, or are interrupted by, situational pressures that the person is currently immersed in. This can have both positive and negative effects on the counseling provided; by allowing the counselor some insight into the person's situation, the counselor can be more objective. Conversely, the disruptions and pressures of situational factors may make it difficult for the client to adopt a reflective state or maintain full focus on the counseling session.
In the case of para-professional counseling (meaning a non-licensed therapist), there may not be guaranteed privacy; the electronic technologies involved make it difficult to prevent multiple phone connections, loudspeakers, or recording of the interactions. This fact may present a problem to a paranoid personality who suspects that others are monitoring his or her calls.
If the counseling is provided by an organization staffed by a number of employees or volunteers, a repeat caller cannot develop a relationship with a counselor in the same way as in traditional therapy, which may impede progress. These organizations typically limit calls in time and frequency, preventing deeper analysis and thus the use of therapeutic modalities that depend on it (i.e. psychoanalysis).
Phone counseling is not appropriate for people who are homicidal, suicidal, self injuring, or requiring more care than one session per week. Phone counselors may not be acquainted with local emergency service options.
Counselors at locally operated suicide hotlines are trained in emergency services and acquainted with local resources usually.
It would be very difficult for an online counselor to do biofeedback with you, for example, but a phone counselor might be able to work with you using various webinar services, like Ready Talk for example.
Your phone counselor might advocate that you utilize any of a number of tools, like the following computerized brain fitness tools, or even purchase the Heartmath biofeedback tool, if there are issues with eating, sleep, anxiety, or stress.
The computerized brain fitness tools can be used in private and are excellent for increasing neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, key aspects of brain fitness that can be enhanced with regular practice. No one knew that we could workout our brains to grow new brain cells and make new connections much more rapidly until a decade or so ago.
Want to make your IQ bigger?
Then you need to try the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro. Or if you are a Senior or Boomer, then please check out the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, recently put to the research test in the IMPACT study of 524 Senior Citizens. As a Boomer, all of these are tools I use regularly.
Or perhaps your phone counselor wants you to read up on
Brainfitness for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. who have culled the neuroscientific research for tools we can use to make our brains all they can be.