Posted by Br Patrick McCarthy FSC
on 25 November 2020
Br Patrick McCarthy, Chaplain Oakhill College, sat down with 21-year-old Effie to discuss her role as a Kids Helpline Counsellor.
Kids Helpline has been operating since 1991 and is a service provided by yourtown. yourtown formally known as BoysTown was founded by the De La Salle Brothers.
"yourtown is a charity with service young people can access to find jobs, learn skills, become great parents and live safer, happier lives. We believe every young person has the right to a brighter future" - Tracy Adams, CEO
What is your role - i.e. How would you explain what you do to someone you just met?
I am a counsellor at Kids Helpline. My role includes working with children and young people aged anywhere between 5 to 25 years old, from all around Australia. As a national team, we respond to thousands of contacts from young people and offer support through counselling via telephone, web chat and email. We are professionally trained and qualified to support children and young people through whatever hardship, concerns or issues they may face.
What is unique about this type of counselling?
Kids Helpline is the only 24/7, free, private and confidential counselling service in Australia for young people. Counselling offered through our virtual modalities make our service unique in that we are there for our nation's young people, anytime, for any reason, allowing us to be flexible and accessible. Young people can call the service on their own; they have the option of staying anonymous and can receive ongoing counselling with the same counsellor. Kids Helpline removes some of the barriers for young people that traditional face-to-face services might present for example stigma and financial accessibility.
Sounds like you have a great chance to make a positive difference to others' lives - can you tell me about a time when that had a big impact on you?
There are so many special moments working alongside children and young people as a Kids Helpline counsellor. As young people invite us into part of their life, we become fellow travelers in our respective journeys. There are moments of connection, collaboration and breakthroughs with many of the young people we speak too, and this opportunity is a privilege that has a daily impact on my own personal growth.
What drew you to this field of work?
Throughout my life, I am grateful for close relationships with people from all walks of life, many of whom have had lived experiences with mental health concerns. Each person has a unique story, and this attracted me to finding work as a counsellor. It is a privilege to inquire genuinely into someone's life, and to gain some understanding into a part of their story, allowing them to feel heard and seen.
What is the biggest challenge in the role?
Some days we might speak with up to 10 or so young people, each time investing a little bit of ourselves in the session. It can be easy to forget to check in with ourselves and how we are doing carrying the stories of others. For this reason, Kid's Helpline prioritises the self-care of all parties, staff and clients, through debriefs, breaks, supervision, training and peer support. Wherever I am, I know that support is always available for me.
What characteristics are important in a role like this?
I would say a passion for helping others, empathy, authenticity and most importantly, a willingness to learn - there is plenty of opportunity!
Have you seen any positive ripple effects in the work you have done?
There have been a few instances when young people may call back after weeks or months just to share a positive change or success in their life relating to something from their our last session. This is a hugely rewarding experience as we hear the impact of the empowering partnership formed between clients and Kids Helpline counsellors.
What has been the most surprising thing for you about this role?
Day after day, I am amazed at the capacity, self-awareness and level of insight our young people share with us. I am constantly humbled by what our clients teach us. I have come to understand that there is always a learning for me through my work with children and young people.
What advice do you share with others that you need to remind yourself to keep doing/ practicing yourself?
The opportunity to speak into the lives of young people as a Kids Helpline Counsellor is amazing. We are adept at expressing words of comfort, validation and empowerment as a counsellor, however, we are human, and we are not immune to self-criticism. Self-compassion is an ongoing learning for me.
What are some of the most common struggles / issues that you are hearing in this time? How can young people and their families manage these?
The most common issues and struggles that we have been hearing recently relate to COVID, emotional wellbeing and mental health concerns. We continue to encourage young people and their families that we are all in this together and to continue to ask for help. We also remind families that counselling is available through Parent Line, a dedicated, support service for parents.