Telephone Counseling

I and my partner Julie do telephone counseling in two circumstances primarily, when clients have difficulty scheduling or when there is a stressful situation.

She reports that her clients prefer face to face, but will use telephone counseling, even though she may be at home and interrupted by the kids.

Julie says that the lack of visual cues can be compensated for by attention to auditory cues.

However, recent advances in online technology now make face to face counseling on a Google hangout very secure and user friendly.

However, I have another friend in the mental health business who swears by telephone counseling.

However, as I was researching this page I came across a study from the American Psychological Association that reports that clients were quite satisfied with phone therapy.

Maybe our offices were not as important as we thought.

American Psychological Association

As the use of Internet and telecommunications services continues to grow, researchers have questioned the practice of telephone counseling for general mental health. But according to a study reported in the April Journal of Counseling Psychology (Vol. 49, No. 2), telephone counseling appears to be an effective psychological practice.

Based on the 1995 Consumer Reports finding that patients benefit greatly from face-to-face counseling, this study examined free telephone counseling offered to the employees of three large Fortune 500 companies as well as other smaller, regional companies across the United States, Canada and parts of Mexico. Both employees and their immediate family members had access to a telephone counseling agency's toll-free number. Over a three-week period, the authors surveyed a nonrandom sample of adults who called the counseling agency about mental health, relationship or job problems. Master's-level mental health professionals provided the phone counseling, using a solution-focused model of therapy. Most callers received four telephone counseling sessions.

After at least one 30-minute phone session, the counseling agency mailed a packet of questionnaires, including the Consumer Reports Annual Questionnaire (CRAQ), which asks clients to rate their specific improvement, satisfaction and global improvement as a result of telephone counseling. By using CRAQ, the researchers could compare the effectiveness of face-to-face counseling, as measured by Consumer Reports, with the effectiveness of telephone counseling.

The researchers--Robert J. Reese, PhD, of Abilene Christian University, and Collie W. Conoley, PhD, and Daniel F. Brossart, PhD, both of Texas A&M University--found that telephone counseling was beneficial and satisfactory, marked by specific improvement on the issue that lead to counseling and global improvement in emotional state. Of the 186 respondents, 68 percent reported feeling very or completely satisfied with the telephone counseling and 53 percent said they felt somewhat better as a result of counseling. The data also indicate that telephone counseling did not appear to work as well as face-to-face counseling for people who reported feeling very poorly: 31 percent of respondents who initially described that they felt very poorly reported improvement in functioning, compared with 54 percent in the Consumer Reports study of face-to-face counseling.

In contrast to face-to-face counseling, telephone counseling is convenient and less expensive--if provided in a format similar to this study's--and the anonymity of the service may provide clients with a greater sense of control, the authors note. For people who do not have access to affordable mental health care, telephone counseling may be a viable option, they add. The authors also point out that without an office, clothes and physical appearance to potentially distract them, clients being counseled via phone may be inclined to focus better on what the therapist says.


I would like to know what questions were on the Consumer's Report Quesionairre, to see if they asked the respondents about interruptions at their end, like children or pets, and how that impacted their response to telephone counseling.

I would think telephone counseling would be helpful for those who faced difficulties in traveling, or who were in acute stress as my wife mentioned above, or those who needed more anonymity than a face to face session provided.

Can You Make Your Telephone Counseling Space Sacred?

Perhaps one of the nicest aspects of telephone counseling is being in the comfort and familiarity of my own home, if I am the client.

I can make the space where I will participate in the call sacred and private however I wish.

I can use whatever kind of phone I want, including a head set which would leave me free to take notes, always a good idea.

Probably a good idea for the therapist to do that also, and maybe the conversation could be conducted over skype, which would make it free I believe.

Make sure to deactivate call waiting.

You can play music softly, or burn incense, sit-up, or lie down, drink coffee or water.

Pros and Cons of Telephone Counseling

I know that many of my clients feel much better after someone listens to them, and sometimes that is all that is required. I do not need to have a magic wand or potion or resort to my counseling bag of tricks.

I just need to listen carefully and let the individual I am listening to know what I heard them say.

Most folks have the answer inside and find it after a bit of exploration.

Telephone counseling provides the perfect situation for those folks, and also is convenient.

No need to worry about parking, the weather, or what to wear, or drive time, or a babysitter, location, because you can do a phone session while on vacation, and you can do a phone session with someone in another galaxy, or at least far away.

Your Homework-Create Novel Learning Experiences and Brain Fitness

Not too many years ago, no one knew that the human brain grew new neurons everyday, which is called neurogenesis, nor was anyone very clear about the extent to which the brain rewires itself when I learn something new.

So your online counselor may give you online homework, the kind that involves your increasing your IQ by doing Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, or the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, or Lumosity.

Or perhaps your telephone counselor will prescribe some bibliotherapy, and encourage you to read Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans, Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan.

Their work is an overview of the rapidly developing field of brain fitness, hence the title.

They write about how to nurture neurogenesis or neuroplasticity by taking care of the pillars of brain fitness, which are physical exercise, nutrtion including lots of antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acid, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences.

That last pillar, novel learning experience, is tricky. The researchers are saying the challenge has to be new, like the kind you get when learning a new instrument or language.

So more counseling books will not work for me, since my brain knows counseling.

But playing some piano would work fine, or more time with the Mind Sparke.

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