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To ask if this is normal for a counselling assessment?

(28 Posts)
Puttheheatingon Wed 09-Sep-15 14:52:53

To cut a long story short, I've been having a hard time with anxiety and depression over the past few months. I've suffered for years but lately, mostly due to stress at work, it's become something I can't cope with.

I self referred to the PCT's counselling service and have just had my initial telephone assessment. Firstly, she was late to call (absolutely fine btw) and offered no apology (not fine). I asked if she could call me on the landline due to varying signal in my house. I waited a further 10 minutes. When I picked up the phone she didn't introduce herself (other people call me sometimes) but instead told me she'd just eaten a massive jacket potato and couldn't stop burping hmm.

She wanted full details of my dc. I told her their ages and genders but didn't want to divulge further. I appreciate this is a safeguarding issue but given her immediate lack of professionalism re lunch I didn't feel comfortable in giving out this information. I can take the flaming I'm bound to get for this but I stand by it.

She was unbelievably patronising. She wanted to know the ins and outs of my job and immediately misunderstood. Talked to me like a small child (in fact I politely requested that she didn't as it was extremely Irritating). Didn't seem to understand that I know how my anxiety manifests itself and I want to develop coping mechanisms. Told her I was due to see the GP this week to review my ad dose but repeatedly told me that I was on the wrong dosage.

So now I'm on a waiting list. If my appointment is with this person can I refuse to see her? Is this what counselling is like?

bittapitta Wed 09-Sep-15 14:55:32

Wow, you should complain. The telephone consultations are usually done by someone else though who then refers you on, but that all sounds very strange. Can you phone and ask to speak to a manager about the call? Maybe put it in writing?

Puttheheatingon Wed 09-Sep-15 14:56:56

I'm definitely going to complain.

BrandNewAndImproved Wed 09-Sep-15 14:58:27

That's awful.

I to have had a telephone assessment before being referred for one on one cbt. The lady was professional and detached. Perfect for me.

Puttheheatingon Wed 09-Sep-15 15:01:34

I'm glad that you think so; I thought I was being over sensitive.

Got to get the dc from school now, not just disappearing!

TenForward82 Wed 09-Sep-15 15:08:34

Totally unprofessional. I had a telephone assessment recently, she was on time, lovely and professional, and didn't make any comments about burping hmm

Definitely complain.

RoboticSealpup Wed 09-Sep-15 15:12:07

I really hope it's not normal. She sounds extremely unprofessional and I wouldn't want to talk to someone like her about anything personal!

Charis1 Wed 09-Sep-15 15:12:19

are you completely sure she was who she said she was?

paulapompom Wed 09-Sep-15 15:15:18

As bitt says often the phone assessments just lead to apointments with someone else, so don't let it put you off. That said, she sounds dreadful, unprofessional, unhelpful and just wrong! My understanding was also that counselors/therapists don't usually get involved in prescribing or changing medication - could be wrong, but I don't see how you can diagnose over the phone in a few minutes.

Complain. X

Yambrel Wed 09-Sep-15 15:21:23

Doesn't sound good to me either. I had a telephone assessment and found it extremely reassuring. The woman was sympathetic but not patronising. I was able to open up about how bad I felt because of this. If I'd had a phone call like yours I probably would have stayed bottled up and not got the correct help.

yorkshapudding Wed 09-Sep-15 15:50:17

I work in mental health. In most services it's rare that the person who assesses you ends up being your actual counselor so please don't let this experience put you off the whole process. To address some of the points in your OP.
1.)Lateness and lack of apology for being late- not ok, it implies a lack of respect and fails to take into account that many people will be feeling nervous about their assessment so that anxiety would almost certainly be exacerbated by having to wait.
2.) Comments about her lunch and burping- bit odd really and certainly not professional. It could be a misguided attempt at using humour to put you at ease I suppose but clearly wasn't helpful.
3.) Asking detailed questions about your family and work situation- completely normal and necessary for any mental health assessment BUT there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it. If you felt uncomfortable or like you were being interrogated then that's not ok and suggests that her communication skills might not be up to scratch.

LittleMissIntrovert Wed 09-Sep-15 15:57:52

Yes I agree you need to complain.

I referred myself to talking therapies (sounds like the same NHS thing?) and the initial consultation was with a different person to who I have my CBT with, and both are lovely. I felt I could be honest.

Sadly my sister had a different experience, consultation not ideal, but actual counsellor useless. Was late ringing and didn't apologize (twice) rang house phone instead of mobile as specified, and sent post, but put neighbours address on hmm very unprofessional. I told her to complain as that's not acceptable,sounds similar to your experience sad

Good luck, flowers

Puttheheatingon Wed 09-Sep-15 15:59:56

Thank you. I don't mind being asked questions at all, but I resented her tone. I'm depressed; not stupid. I've spent nearly 20 years working in people-facing roles in one form or another and I can adapt my communication style quickly according to audience.

Tbh I feel like just not bothering.

Puttheheatingon Wed 09-Sep-15 16:10:29

I couldn't be honest at this assessment. I wanted to tell her how my life is dark; how I am untenably stressed. How noone gives a shit about my feelings. How it's not as easy to "just get a new job". How I can't eat for fear of feeling ill.

She wanted to know how my social life is impacted. With dc of 7 and 4 I don't really have one. She was shocked.

TenForward82 Wed 09-Sep-15 16:15:35

That's ridiculous. Her misunderstanding what you're saying reminds me of: I went to private counsellor for a 'taster' session before committing to a longer number of sessions. She would say, "So, [this thing I mentioned], is it like X?" So I say "Actually, no, it's more like Y." And she'd say, "Ok, so being X, you should do this ..."

I noped out of there and never went back. She then proceeded to hassle me for the ??30 taster session charge several times a day for the following 3 days, even though I said I'd pay it on the weekend by BACS. She was nuts herself.

LittleMissIntrovert Wed 09-Sep-15 16:30:00

That's a shame, it takes a lot of strength to be honest in the assessment so you have to feel comfortable.

I'm sorry you've had a bad experience but please don't be put off, my counselor is lovely, and I can really open up, and I don't feel she is judging me, I'm actually looking forward to seeing her tomorrow smile

I have also had marriage counseling, so a different thing, and felt so uncomfortable and unable to open up, it was awful, so I know how you feel. It set me back and made me even more depressed, and so I know the difference in a good and bad experience flowers

colley Wed 09-Sep-15 16:32:02

In many places, telephone assessments are done by the least trained and experienced staff. In these places, they do not do counselling or CBT, as they do not have the training for it. They are trained to follow a script, a bit like the old NHS Direct.

I do not think telephone assessments should be done by the least trained and experience, thus cheapest staff. But I don't make the rules that says assessments can be done by a script.

lampygirl Wed 09-Sep-15 16:40:43

I get that they probably have to ask a load of questions but to be honest, I feel like its going to depress me more having any form of counselling following the assessment than by not having it. I have very situational anxiety after several awful experiences with various GPs/nurses/clinics and having a lifelong medical condition I need to develop ways to overcome that, yet the whole set of questions focussed on whether my DP was a negative impact on my life (he's not) and whether I was likely to commit suicide.

It felt like ringing the GP for advice on having a sprained ankle and being asked the series of questions to work out if you are having a heart attack.

I found mine very patronising, and to be honest, kind if strengthens my lack of faith in the health service. Wish I'd not bothered.

colley Wed 09-Sep-15 16:45:49

lampygirl - The low trained person is following a script.
It is like when you rang NHS Direct and they followed a script asking questions that were not relevant to you.

I don't know what the actual counsellor would be like, but don't judge that by the assessment.

PastaLaFeasta Wed 09-Sep-15 16:47:39

It doesn't matter whether you are reasonable in disliking the tone of this counsellor, even if you were irritated by something silly you do need to feel comfortable with the person who continues your treatment. We meet people who we can't connect with, who doesn't 'get' us or misunderstands. I had months of counselling with one therapist who just didn't quite get what I was feeling and why, I'd go in with something on my mind but would be directly elsewhere to less important matters. I left feeling more depressed than before, having therapy fail to help makes you feel even more hopeless. And my first telephone appointment was a bit of a battle so I refused to see that person. This counsellor is probably right for someone else but Pps are correct that you are likely to see someone else, in some areas the initially assessor cannot be your ongoing counsellor, although not the case in my current location.

colley Wed 09-Sep-15 16:47:44

And the reason they ask questions on suicide is because the low trained person does not have the skills to assess whether someone is a suicide risk and needs to be seen urgently. So they get a list of suicide questions to ask, and there is a score, that tells them whether you need to someone urgently. It is like painting by numbers and is patronising and insulting.

Puttheheatingon Mon 14-Sep-15 19:33:26


I complained. Today a manager called me and she was very understanding. She said the person with whom I had my assessment didn't even try to dispute anything I'd reported. She also said - and I hadn't thought about this - is that someone else might have had s similar experience and might not have wanted to engage further, which can be dangerous.

The upshot is that they will a) make sure I don't have to see this woman and b) they will see if they can match me with someone who will be suitable.

Penfold007 Mon 14-Sep-15 20:14:19

OP well done, that's a great result. Please don't be put off from engaging with decent counsellor.

nameinlights Mon 14-Sep-15 20:34:17

Well done for complaining.

TheoriginalLEM Mon 14-Sep-15 20:41:24

well done for complaining. That was very brave.

i just wantedvto pick on one thong you said. Suffering from anxiety and depression is NOT a safeguarding issue regarding your children. It might be that she was trying to develop a picture of your family life and should not have made you feel like that. Hopefully she will receive some further training.

fwiw i really don't like telephone assessments.

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