How Does Counselling Support One’s Mental Health?

25 Oct 2021
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Having restricted contact with friends, staying home for long hours, and being away from extended family members can make one feel isolated during this pandemic.

 

More people are turning to counsellors as a trusted outlet and provide a helpful perspective to address their emotional challenges. 


We speak to Ms Ruth Chua, executive director of Counselling and Care Centre, to share more about counselling for mental health, and tips to maintain one’s mental wellbeing.


Ms Ruth Chua

 

Ms Ruth Chua

Executive Director of Counselling and Care Centre

"1. What are the most common concerns from your clients, especially since the pandemic?"

Ruth  Answer: 

Some of the most common issues resulting from the pandemic are anxiety, stress, and depression.


"2. Could you share an example of when one of your clients realised they needed help from you? What prompted them to seek counselling?"

Ruth  Answer: 

I have a young adult client who experienced conflicts with his father, a retiree, due to his work-from-home arrangements. He experienced anxiety handling the disputes with his father and adjusting to the stress from remote working. It affected his sleep, appetite and concentration at work. The symptoms are mental health red flags that led him to seek counselling.


"3. How has the pandemic affected people seeking counselling?"

Ruth  Answer: 

The pandemic has seen an increase in the number of people seeking help. The heightened awareness following frequent media publicity about mental health issues may have contributed to the growth. Tele-counselling is a norm now as it is an affordable and convenient tool for people to log in on a computer or a smartphone to connect with a counsellor wherever they are.


"4. Some people may worry they might not get the full benefits or care from a telecare service. Does counselling through digital channels today provide a comparable quality of care for clients?"

Ruth  Answer: 

Tele-counselling provides clients with the convenience to access counselling when they are in need. People who benefit most from telecare services are clients who are busy with caring for children or senior parents, and juggling work and other responsibilities. 

The factors that may impact the quality of care for clients using telecare services are as follows: 

  • Lack of private space - Some clients have to share a space with family and significant others and find it challenging to have privacy when using telecare service. 
  • Noise and technological disruptions - The surrounding noise in the environment and weak audio or video connection can impact counselling quality.
  • Challenges in observing interactions between two or more clients in an online session - With tele-service, it's often hard to make eye contact with our clients through the webcam and screen. We use eye contact to assure our clients we are attending and listening to them. At the same time, a client's eye contact can indicate if they are engaged, have reservations, or are distracted. We may also observe that our clients' eyes are teary, which may indicate distress or sadness during the conversation.

Clients will benefit from telecare services as long as we can reduce the above barriers. I believe the tele-counselling experience will improve with time and technology.


"5. How has your work as a counsellor changed since the pandemic started?"

Ruth  Answer: 

I spend more time working online and at home due to the restrictions of safe management measures. With the increasing demands for counselling, we have less time for breaks between meeting different clients online. 


"6. As a counsellor, what do you do to decompress or to relieve anxiety or stress after work?"

Ruth  Answer: 

Self-care is essential for healthcare workers as it can be physically and emotionally draining after attending to people in need. 

As a counsellor, I reflect and affirm myself on small accomplishments daily to keep myself motivated. I review my expectations and understand my limitations when work is overwhelming. Sharing with my fellow team members and peers has also helped me to cope. Taking a walk out of my home environment in the evenings has enabled me to breathe in some fresh air and relax after a day's work on the computer.


"7. Can you share three self-care tips to care for one's mental health at home?"

Ruth  Answer: 

  • Maintain a connection with friends and family members, community volunteers who are nurturing and supportive via phone and online by communicating concerns and care, sharing inspiring or fun messages. 
  • Take breaks and rest in between work activities.
  • Take up an activity/hobby that you are talented in or passionate about to appreciate your strengths.

"8. To our readers who may know someone under stress or anxiety during this time, what advice would you give to them to help them start a conversation with their friends/loved ones about seeking help?"

Ruth  Answer: 
Before starting a conversation, it is helpful to observe signs of stress or anxiety such as disruption in sleeping and eating patterns, withdrawal or irritability etc. 

Start the conversation by showing care and concern from your tone of voice and asking helpful open-ended questions such as, "How are you coping with….?", "You looked tired, how are you going through….?" 

Most importantly, maintain a calm posture and provide active listening by giving appropriate space for the affected person to talk.