RECENT media coverage of celebrity child abuse trials has, for many people, brought back memories of their own experiences which have been ‘buried’ for many decades.
This has resulted in many services being inundated with requests for support and counselling; but what about the people who cannot access these services?
Some are so traumatised, they are unable to deal with face-to-face counselling; some live in remote places; some cannot afford the cost of travelling to counselling; some have mobility difficulties and some are afraid to risk their anonymity by being seen accessing local services.
Says a spokesperson: “In the last year, a unique, effective counselling service for adult survivors of childhood abuse has seen an increase of 41 per cent in the number of people seeking counselling. The service is the Trauma Counselling Line Scotland (TCLS) and it is now being accessed by people living in every health board area of Scotland.
“With a cost equivalent of £25 per day from each of Scotland’s 14 local health boards, TCLS is delivered by Scottish charity, Health in Mind, and the service is available free to anyone living in Scotland, provided they have access to a telephone.”
Eileen Johnston is TCLS team leader and she is keen to point out that the service is not a helpline but instead, a professional case-managed counselling service and that, last year, the team delivered a total of 2,472 hours of counselling and support.
Eileen continued: “What makes TCLS unique is that it provides weekly, case-managed, confidential counselling by telephone and for anyone using the service, it means they never need to repeat what has happened to them as they only speak to their own counsellor and this helps to minimise trauma.”
Abuse in childhood can be sexual, emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual or neglect and the service helps survivors to address and understand the issues that have affected them.
“This helps to build their confidence and results in them gaining greater control of their lives.
“Many people engaging with TCLS have told us they were unable to engage with conventional counselling as some were unable to deal with face-to-face counselling; some live in remote places, some could not afford the cost of travelling to counselling, some have mobility difficulties or are afraid to be seen accessing local services,” said Eileen.
A client will arrange to speak to their counsellor in a place of their choosing; somewhere private or where they feel safe, which may not always be their own home. All calls are free from landlines or from major mobile networks.
Eileen explained how the service is staffed by a team leader, administrator and locally-based counsellors:
“Our counsellors are diploma qualified members of professional counselling organisations such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and have more than 200 hours of post-qualifying experience in counselling adults who have experienced childhood abuse or trauma.”
TCLS counsellors adhere to strict guidelines relating to confidentiality, organisational policies and procedures, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy Ethical Framework and the Helpline Association’s good practice standards.
The Trauma Counselling Scotland confidential number is 08088 020406. The enquiry line is available Monday to Wednesday 5pm – 8pm and Thursday and Friday 9am – 2pm. At other times, there is an option to leave a message.
TCLS is funded by the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for survivors of childhood abuse, the SurvivorScotland Development Fund.
For further information, contact Health in Mind communications manager Doreen Graham on 0131 243 0137.
The following case studies were provided by service users provided their names were changed.
Sam was abused as a child. As a young adult, he had tried to tell his mum and as the abuser was a member of her immediate family, she refused to believe him.
This led to years of self-harm and then two failed suicide attempts. Sam then made the decision to leave his family and went to live in a remote area of one of the Scottish islands.
He was socially isolated and deeply unhappy.
Some years later, he made the decision to seek counselling but could not connect with any agency on the island for fear of neighbours seeing him going into the building. He then found private counselling on the mainland but it was extremely difficult and costly to make the weekly appointments.
There were various factors that made the face-to-face counselling impossible for him. Cost was one, but the main reason was the friendly interest from the ferryman and neighbours on the journey, asking about his trips.
Each week, Sam invented a reason for his journey: he was going to the dentist, the optician or seeing a friend. The fear of the local community eventually finding out he was attending counselling forced him to stop.
When he eventually found out about the Telephone Counselling Line Scotland, he told us that it felt absolutely right for him.
No-one but him, needed to know and he was able to engage with an experienced counsellor at a time and place that suited.
Sam tells his counsellor that he always sits in a room in his house with a view over the sea and this makes him feel calmer.
He is now making progress and through working on the telephone with the same counsellor every week, he never has to repeat his story or make the journey.
Jo was continuously abused as a child by a friend of her family.
She felt she could not tell anyone about what had happened to her.
Her abuser had told her that no-one would believe her and that she would be shunned by her family.
Jo told us she just could not even think about telling anyone what had happened and could not bear the thought of speaking to someone, face-to-face.
She said she was terrified that anyone in her community would find out about her accessing services.
Jo deals with this by immersing herself in her work.
She experiences extreme feelings of shame, guilt and overwhelming isolation and the thought of anyone knowing what happened to her or the fact she is receiving counselling meant she spent years denying herself help.
She read a newspaper article about Trauma Counselling Line Scotland and, although apprehensive, she decided to make the call.
The service meets her needs as she is able to speak to a counsellor in a different geographical area.
Her sessions on the telephone from home offer her anonymity, helping her to move forward without the fear of anyone knowing she is receiving counselling and the reason for it.
Her counsellor has a clinical supervisor to give support which is funded as part of the service.
John had been abused as a teenager and as young man formed a relationship with an abusive partner.
After many years, the relationship ended and John felt abandoned and that he had deserved the abuse he had received.
He was deeply unhappy.
John contacted the Trauma Counselling Line Scotland and said he had many questions he needed answering before he could think about engaging with the service.
The TCLS team leader explained that he would be speaking to the same counsellor every week, so there would be no need to keep retelling his story.
She explained to John that TCLS was a full, case-managed funded service and that all counsellors are qualified in trauma.
He wept and then apologised, explaining that he had been unable to speak to anyone, even his family, about this as he was scared of their reaction.
At that time, John felt nothing good happened in his life.
He now feels ready to engage with his counsellor and is hopeful for the first time in his adult life.
Notes for editors
Health in Mind was set up in the 1980s and was formally known as the Edinburgh Association for Mental Health with the aim of taking over flats which were then rented for ex-patients by the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Today, the organisation still provides housing as well as many other services which include trauma counselling, befriending services, respite for carers, information services and community based services. The organisation delivers services on behalf of NHS Health Boards and some Local Authorities.
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