Effective Telecounselling in the Eap Setting


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This professional development presentation provides guidelines and best practices information for Employee Assistance and other mental health professionals when conducting brief counselling via telephone.

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Effective Telecounselling in the Eap Setting

  1. 1. Bernie McCann, MS, CEAP Brandeis University Waltham, MA
  2. 2.  The purpose of this training is to assist Employee Assistance professionals to take the best advantage of new approaches to deliver more user-friendly and accessible services, specifically telecounseling.  It is important to note telecounselling is NOT intended as replacement for traditional face- to-face setting, but rather as a separate modality, another option for client services.
  3. 3.  Telehealth  Telemedicine  Telepsychiatry  Videoconferencing  PC-based video transmission  Email applications  Telecounselling
  4. 4. Providing effective telecounselling in the EAP setting does require:  Modification of some procedures;  Reconsideration of several aspects of the client/counsellor interaction;  Revision of certain service protocols; and  Specialty training of staff.
  5. 5.  Enhanced access for certain client groups  May encourage engagement of ambivalent clients  Telephonic modality may reduce distractions  Less impact on productive work time & leisure time  Increases opportunities for follow-up contacts  Reduces migration to inappropriate sources of help
  6. 6.  Loss of personal intimacy from shared space  Can be experienced as impersonal; mechanistic  Counselor loses visual cues to assist in assessment  May encourage obfuscation of critical information or misleading responses  Telephonic connection can be lost, inadvertently or deliberately
  7. 7.  Effective telecounselling requires at minimum an environment which is free from distractions, and provides for both privacy and client safety.  Conducting telecounselling with individuals who are multi-tasking is rarely safe or effective.  Conducting telecounselling with individuals who are at work in an open office environment is fraught with difficulties.
  8. 8.  Use of telecounselling requires careful screening of clients. Examples of clients which are not appropriate for telephone counselling include:  Active threats of violence, suicide, or homicide;  Mandatory alcohol and drug abuse referrals;  Children and adolescents;  Any others…? Note: When in doubt of the suitability of clients for telephone counselling, counsellors should immediately review case with a clinical or administrative supervisor.
  9. 9.  Clinical profile: Clients appropriate for telecounselling  Unique confidentiality and privacy issues  Use of active listening and other related therapeutic communication skills  Advanced telecounselling techniques: Brief therapies – i.e., solution focused, cognitive-behavioral, etc. as appropriate
  10. 10.  Clinical license: Jurisdictional issues when telephone lines and services cross state/provincial borders  Confidentiality and privacy issues: Mobile and satellite phones in particular, are not secure  Transmission issues: Poor transmission and service interruptions have potential for faulty assessments, misunderstandings, and safety lapses.  Legal: In the US, certain statutory requirements for secure transmission and storage of personal health information (HIPPA, etc.) may impact use of telecounseling and other electronic transmissions.
  11. 11.  Active Listening  Paraphrasing, Clarifying and Agreeing  Effectual Questioning  Providing Clear Information  Reflecting & Validating Feelings
  12. 12.  At initial session, counsellors should administer a telecounselling statement of understanding and explain the unique nature of service.  Counsellors should request client telephone number and ask permission to callback if disconnected.  Counsellors should identify a nearby source for assistance if a crisis or emergency occurs during the session.
  13. 13.  Telephonic assessments should be consistent with EAP in-person clinical guidelines.  Utilize a scale of global client functioning at onset and closure of each case, consistent with current procedures.  Request permission from telecounselling clients for subsequent customer satisfaction interview and verify callback telephone number.
  14. 14. Telephonic case records should be consistent with those used for EAP in-person clients. These include proper and complete documentation of the following:  Telecounselling statement of understanding  Standard screening and assessment tools  Service utilization  Case notes
  15. 15. Clinical supervision of telecounselling cases should be consistent with established practice guidelines, acknowledging critical differences and additional considerations, including:  Confirming client appropriateness for telecounselling format;  Adequate procedural safeguards to ensure client privacy, confidentiality and safety; and  Provisions for moving client from telecounselling format if necessary or requested.
  16. 16.  Reaching a comfort level with telecounselling cases is likely related to understanding the differences and nuances of this delivery approach as well as gaining some experience. Questions, or comments?