Helpline Training Programme: Module 2

Endorsed by the institute of Psychiatry, London as being effective and highly professional

COPYRIGHT: No Panic April 2000

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Dealing with Direct Questions

QUESTION 1: Am I going mad?

Am I going mad?

This is one of the most frightening symptoms of acute anxiety or panic and it would be inhumane to withhold reassurance on this score. If callers appear lucid and rational and what they describe fits the classic pattern of a panic attack, it is probably safe to dispel their worst fears but be aware of saying anything that could be constructed as a diagnosis.

It is best to use reflective listening "you feel at though you are going mad...?" To allow the caller to explore further. Respond in a way to let the caller know you understand their fear, but what they fear will not happen.

Trivia!

  • People can become insane as a result of a panic attack

QUESTION 2: What is wrong with me?

"What is Wrong with me?"

There are many variants on this and many motives for asking, for example:

Caller wants to make sense of unpleasant sensations/experiences.

 It is not a volunteers place to diagnose, even if it does sound like a clear case of anxiety. Say that you are not medically qualified but encourage talking about their feelings.

Caller unsure of what type of disorder he/she has.

The boundaries can often be blurred, e.g. between agoraphobia and claustrophobia or phobias and Obsessive, Compulsive Disorder   awareness on the listeners part of the main classifications of anxiety disorder and their characteristics is useful.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

  • Agoraphobia
    Actually a cluster of fears relating to places/situations in which sufferers feel trapped, e.g. public transport, supermarkets, bridges, lifts and confined spaces. It is not just a fear of going out or being far from home.
  • General Anxiety Disorder
    Panic attacks or milder symptoms of anxiety occur at any time or place, without an identified trigger.
  • Social Phobia
    Sufferers’ fear being at the centre of attention or embarrassed. Vomit/eating phobias may be forms of social phobia but not always.
  • Specific Phobias
    Anxiety triggered by one identifiable object, event or thing such as spiders, thunder, lightening, hospitals etc.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
    Feels compelled to perform certain rituals in response to obsessive thought patterns, e.g. washing excessively to remove irrational thoughts of contamination. Obsessive thoughts can be a problem in their own right without the associated rituals.

Should you diagnose a caller?

  • Yes
  • No

QUESTION 3: Do you suffer from this?

"Do you suffer from this?"

Whether you do or not, you cannot win this one. Before deciding how to respond, consider why callers might really want to know:

  1. That they are not alone in experiencing these frightening symptoms?

  2. That the help-liner is ‘qualified’ to help and does he/she believe that ‘only people who have had it really understand’ or “you can’t be much help to me if you haven’t got over it yourself.”

The best reply is one which:- 

  1. Is honest

  2. Shows callers that you take the problem and their suffering seriously

  3. Enables callers to talk about them and not about the help-liner

QUESTION 4: What should I do?

"What do I do?"

Explore the options using the scenario simulator below. Don't worry, all are correct responses. 

Whatever the callers problem your interested attention plus the listening skills you have learned should be good enough to deal with most calls. First and foremost the caller wants to talk to someone who will accept him or her, take their fears seriously, let them know that they are not alone and will not tell them what to do.  You do not need to equip yourself with a lot of specialist knowledge or refer them to someone more competent. Always remember to put the person before the problem. 

Homework Example

Fears and Fantasies

Imagine you are going to be on the help-line for the first time. Think about the calls you might receive, the types of people who may call, the sorts of problems they might bring, or the way they behave, crying, frightened, angry. Which do you feel worried about? What do you think you might find difficult to deal with? Brainstorm these issues with your partner. Think why these particular calls or callers might be difficult for you to handle. Make a list and bring it to next week’s session.

Fears and Fantasies

Imagine you are going to be on the help-line for the first time. Think about the calls you might receive, the types of people who may call, the sorts of problems they might bring, or the way they behave, crying, frightened, angry. Which do you feel worried about? What do you think you might find difficult to deal with? Brainstorm these issues with your partner. Think why these particular calls or callers might be difficult for you to handle. Make a list and submit it.

Goals

More examples

Example Video

Videos can be uploaded directly or sourced from a URL i.e. Youtube

Example Audio

Module 2 2016