Adding letters to telephone counselling: A narrative response to frequent callers — Daniela Schon


This paper demonstrates how therapeutic letter writing and other narrative practices were implemented in a phone-based community counselling service
in relation to work with regular and frequent callers. Helplines provide support for people in distress. Although the focus of these services is often on times of crisis when lives may be at stake, many callers to helplines are struggling with ongoing mental health issues, and may phone frequently, sometimes several times a day, over long periods. This can stretch helpline resources, preventing urgent calls from getting through and taxing counsellors who may be peer-support workers or volunteers. Lifeline Aotearoa’s attempts to manage frequent callers raised questions about the services the organisation was offering and whether it was contributing to ‘maintaining’ those frequent callers. Narrative ideas were introduced to facilitate conversations that offered rich story development, for both callers and counsellors, and to situate problems callers presented in a wider social context in which they might make a contribution.