Have you thought about seeking help at a counselling centre? Ever wondered whom you’d be speaking with on the other end of the line? Meet Jay, the Intake Officer at Eagles Mediation & Counselling Centre (EMCC). We had a chance to interview her and found out what it’s like to handle daily enquiries at a counselling centre.
Many thanks too to EMCC for submitting this story! It’s not often that we get to hear first-hand from people who work behind the scenes. :) We believe this would demystify counselling and empower more readers to approach therapy as a positive step towards recovery.
How long have you been working at EMCC and what led to you working there?
Two and a half years. I’d always wanted to work in the social service sector, but income was a concern since I’ve been the main breadwinner for my family for a long time. Finally after 18 years, I found the courage to quite a job I didn’t find meaning in, and went ahead in search of social service jobs where I get to help people. My Christian faith played a big role in this decision. Also, the counselling centre was a safe and non-judgemental environment to work in, which I had needed when I was undergoing a time of grief over the passing of my mum.
What is the process like for someone who wants to see a counsellor?
They usually enquire through a phone call or email us from our website. We ask them how they came to know about us, check with them on their available dates, what general issues they’re seeking counselling for (could be marital, individual, career etc.). Then I’ll consult with the Head of Counselling, where we’ll match a suitable counsellor to the client and set an appointment. We do try to accommodate walk-ins, especially if it’s an urgent situation, since we have in-house counsellors.
What are the kinds of calls that come in, typically?
Mostly the people who call in want to find out the details of our counselling sessions, like the goals, the duration, the background of our counsellors, the charges. We get quite a lot of calls about marital and relationship issues, depression or anger management.
Sometimes clients think I’m a counsellor and start “downloading” their concerns to me. And some may be overwhelmed by their own emotions and unwittingly end up venting at me. I just try to be calm and comforting. I had to learn not to take it personally, that I had just caught them at the wrong time, and their emotions were not directed at me.
Based on your experience, what are the benefits of counselling? Is it different from talking to a close friend?
A counsellor can ask the right questions to get you to the root of the issue.
For example, if you are angry at your siblings for not helping with the housework, one question could be: “Exactly what are you angry about?” It could be that you feel deeply unappreciated, or you could just be angry that you’re working hard and they’re not helping. Those are two different issues. So that’s just a simple example of how a counsellor can help you identify and work through your emotions. Counselling can also equip you with the tools to manage the issue, and offer you a neutral perspective from someone who doesn’t know you or judge you.
Your friends might be biased to either siding with you or against you. Or they might only know how to listen and sympathise with you, but not give you the right tools to resolve your struggle. They could even make things worse if they happen to give you the wrong advice. Sometimes friends just say things like, “Don’t be angry!” and that’s not helpful at all.
What do you find fulfilling about your work?
Being involved in helping these people take their first step towards recovery. I feel they are very brave to take that step and make that first call. When they come into our centre, they’re usually worried, and I need to be sensitive and non-judgmental, help them feel comforted and welcomed, assure them that they did the right thing. When I receive them at our centre I’m putting a face to the helpline that they called. Sometimes clients thank me for “convincing” them to try counselling, which makes me feel a bit overwhelmed and undeserving.
In your experience, what are some of the difficulties people face when thinking of seeking help at a counselling centre?
In Singapore, counselling is still a taboo, not something people talk openly about.
Some people might be worried that what is discussed in the counselling session might be communicated to others. Some are concerned that if they go to a counselling centre they might be seen by people they know. And some question whether counselling really does help them, because they’re not sure what counselling involves.
What encouragement would you give to these people?
I try to explain to them that these counselling sessions are private and confidential—what has been shared stays within the four walls of the counselling room. The counsellor wants to empower you to address the root of the issue; they’re not out to judge you or tell you what to do or what not to do. If someone is not sure, I’d encourage them to just give it a try. They can actually speak to one of our counsellors on the phone, or come for a half-hour free pre-counselling session, where they will get an outline on what to expect out of a counselling session, what can be accomplished, based on their specific issue.
Thank you Jay for answering our questions. We do hope that after reading this you’d feel more assured of finding help at a professional counselling centre.
Information about EMCC
EMCC (Eagles Mediation & Counselling Centre) is one of the region’s foremost organisations that pioneered family mediation and training, and is one of the few agencies with expertise to provide integrative services in mediation and psychotherapy. Our services include: professional counselling and mediation, marriage preparation programmes, and family relationship-building workshops. http://emcc.org.sg/