What happens when you ring our helpline? | Education Support Partnership

What happens when you ring our helpline?

Following our report into the increase in teachers ringing our helpline our CEO Julian Stanley explains what happens when you make that call.

It’s all very well telling teachers, teaching staff and other education staff to call our help if they’re feeling stressed by their job, or life. We know it’s not as easy to do it as it is to say it. Sounds straightforward enough but when you’re at a very low point reaching out and asking for help can be incredibly difficult.

For a very long time at the Education Support Partnership we’ve been helping teachers, teaching assistants, school secretaries, administrators and everyone involved in education to cope with the stresses and strains of their job. Our highly-trained counsellors are well aware of how difficult it can be just to pick up the phone and say you need help. It’s especially hard for people who work in education as they are trained to help others.

World Mental Health Day 

So with #WorldMentalHealthDay coming up we thought it would be useful to explain what happens when you ring our helpline. We’ve recently been talking to a number of people who did just that and we asked them what their experiences were like. You can read some of their stories here on our website. One teacher told us she wanted to use the messaging service as she found it too difficult to talk on the phone. Our counsellor reassured her that the phone was the best way to access the help she needed. A week later this teacher did ring our helpline and she now says it was one of the best things she did.

Teachers and education staff may find they have something called “anticipatory anxiety” whereby the anxiety about something can be much worse than the thing itself. Teachers tend to have vivid imaginations - it’s often part of the job. However a good imagination can work against you if you’re forever wondering, “What about this scenario? What if I try that?” It can be an incredibly uncomfortable feeling because no matter how many times you go over a solution in your head, that’s the only place it exists.

Fear of an Ofsted is a typical example of anticipatory anxiety and that’s why we’ve just written about a blog this. Sometimes recognising you may be going through anticipatory anxiety can be enormously helpful. For a start, you’re not alone and I hope it’s a comfort for to hear. Naming a fear can help to dissipate it.

Fear of the unknown

Fear of the unknown about ringing us is quite understandable. So what happens when you call our helpline? Our counsellors are all highly trained, knowledgeable and experienced. In your initial call the counsellor will assess your situation and work with you to decide how to proceed. For many callers this first session is a great chance to get everything off their chests. And in many cases, there is no need for anything further. “It was such a relief to find someone I could talk to,” is a typical response we get in our feedback from teachers and education staff who’ve called our helpline. “We didn’t resolve anything in my first session, I just talked and felt really heard for the first time in ages,” is also something we hear a lot.

It’s important here to make the distinction between advice and counselling. If you’ve never had counselling it’s possible you may think what counsellors do is offer advice. May even fear you’ll just be told to “get on with it” or find another school. Counselling isn’t advice. Instead it’s what’s called “person centred” so the only person taking decisions is you - the person receiving the counselling. People calling our helpline are guided by counsellors to find the solutions themselves. No one is going to tell you what to do. Instead by talking with our counsellors you may well find you have the solution you seek - asking for a lighter workload for example or a change of job rather than a change of school. A counsellor will often give you permission to do what you probably wanted to do all along. But needed somebody to say it’s okay.

Solution focused

After this initial call the counsellor working with the client will decide on how best to proceed. Sometimes this will mean referring the client to our grants service if they have a financial problem. Or they may need legal help for which their union could be best placed to help. And if appropriate they may be offered up to six free sessions of what’s called Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). This involves a move away from the analysis of problems to discovery of solutions. It concentrates on helping callers identify their skills, strengths and resources and moves them towards a solution. However for many callers this one call is enough to help them resolve their situation. And they are always welcome to call again if they need help further down the line.

Counselling is broadly defined as giving clients an opportunity to explore, discover and clarify ways of living more resourcefully with greater wellbeing. It helps them to help themselves. It’s non­directive, non-judgmental and helps people come to terms with their feelings, see what options are open to them and then choose between them. Essentially counselling is about empowering and equipping you to deal with your problems. It’s a road map you help to draw up with support and guidance from a counsellor.

Calling the Ed Support helpline is a very positive thing to do. It takes a little courage, but it is very likely to help you change your relationship to whatever issues you’re facing. It will guide and encourage you so you can explore and think through and perhaps differently about these matters and indeed yourself.

How we can help

  • Help for individuals  
    Sometimes work (or just life) can be tough. A challenging student, an Ofsted inspection, personal financial worries; there are many stresses on those who work in education. That’s why we offer free, confidential help and support, no matter what your problem.
  • Help for organisations 
    Working in education is demanding so we’ve designed a set of services to help you check how your teams are coping, troubleshoot problems and boost everyone’s wellbeing.