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Exploring crisis counsellor helping styles in online crisis counselling Kotlarczyk, Agnieszka M.

Abstract

Crisis counselling via suicide prevention hotlines has demonstrated reduced distress and suicidality in individuals seeking support. Text-based online crisis counselling services (i.e., chats) are becoming an increasingly common way to support suicidal individuals in crisis. Existing research has not yet established a clear understanding of the crisis counselling process and how it relates to outcomes like reduced distress and suicidality. The purpose of this study was to build on current research by examining patterns of different crisis counsellor helping styles and exploring their associations with chatter outcomes, with the goal to develop a theoretical stage model of online crisis counselling. This study also explored whether crisis counsellor behaviours considered to be unhelpful were associated with a lack of chatter improvement. Past chat transcripts (N = 100) from a local crisis intervention centre were collected and coded for different crisis counsellor helping styles (i.e., active listening, collaborative problem-solving, and unhelpful) and chatter outcomes (i.e., affect, suicide risk, and suicide ideation). Analyses of variance were performed. Results indicated that active listening and collaborative problem-solving styles fluctuated over the course of chat, and some patterns of different crisis counsellor behaviours were associated with chatter outcome. Unhelpful crisis counsellor behaviours were associated with lack of chatter improvement. These findings contribute to the growing body of literature on online crisis counselling by generating a theoretical model of what the online crisis counselling process could look like, and how it may support suicidal individuals. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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