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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Crisis counselling online : building rapport with suicidal youth Timm, Maria


Despite a documented increase in the use of online counselling services by youth, little research has been conducted on how counsellors establish rapport in the absence of voice tone and conventional spoken language. As a result, no empirically validated guidelines exist for crisis counselling with youth online. Research shows that youth who access online services are often in extreme distress or suicidal. Youth’s increasing affinity for online communication, coupled with a lack of research in this area, necessitate an examination of how rapport is built online. The current study was a qualitative exploration of client-counsellor interactions in online crisis counselling sessions with suicidal youth. Data sources consisted of transcripts obtained from an online crisis chat service for youth. A collective case study was conducted, using content analysis of client-counsellor interactions followed by an examination of patterns across cases. It was found that tentative language, open-ended questions, and figurative language were used most in the Initial Contact phase and that interventions tended to be connection-building in nature. In the Risk Assessment phase, providing a context for questions, showing acceptance of coping methods, and statements of care were the most frequent interventions, and interventions tended to be connection-building in nature. In the Termination phase, summaries, questions about coping, expressions of care, and emoticons were used; connection-building and action-oriented types of interventions were both used. Overall, it was found that the counsellor tended to mirror the language patterns of the youth and that threats to rapport were handled with genuineness, often using informal language.

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