restoring wellbeing through contact

Quality assurance

Contact employs nearly two hundred therapists to deliver a range of services to people across the lifespan throughout Northern Ireland.

We pride ourselves on delivering quality therapeutic services to those most in need across the entire lifespan. We aim to see people as close to their own locality as possible and to do this, we utilise a variety of different venues throughout Northern Ireland, from community centres to GP surgeries. We provide a wide range of services in our two regional therapeutic hubs in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, which is also where the Lifeline service is based, and Lifeline’s wraparound counselling services extend throughout the whole of NI.

Contact’s firm commitment to social justice principles remains our central purpose, championing access to free and effective professional counselling support at times of crisis to all“.

Contact counsellors (face–to–face counsellors) are trained to at least diploma level, and have a minimum of 150 hours counselling experience gained over 3 years of practice. They must have worked in a formal setting, and many have pursued further specialist training. The majority have years of experience dealing with a wide range of issues including depression, anxiety, abuse, trauma, sexuality, self harm and suicide.

Similarly, all of the speciality Creative Arts Therapy team are qualified to a minimum of Masters level and are registered with the HPC.

Contact telephone counsellors are employed on the Lifeline telephone service and are trained to at least diploma level, having also completed a minimum of 150 hours of face–to–face counselling or acquired one year’s experience working on a similar helpline.

We are proud to state that all of our counsellors are members of the BACP/IACP/UKCP or equivalent and are accredited or working towards accreditation.

Making a referral

Anyone can make a referral to our services whether you are a worried parent, carer, GP, nurse, psychiatrist, social worker, teacher, community worker or friend.  All we ask is that you ensure the person you are concerned for is willing to attend and engage with services. We will always speak to the person in advance of making a referral to a therapist.

We appreciate the difficulties and challenges in supporting another person who is experiencing crisis or despair, this task is often taken on by family members, carers, youth workers, teachers, clergy and friends. For this reason, we specialise in supporting those around a distressed person.

You can make the referral in a number of ways:

  • You can fill in our online referral form by clicking here and filling in the appropriate details.
  • You can download a referral form by clicking here and posting it to us.
  • You can refer into Contact Counselling via the Lifeline Crisis Intervention Helpline free of charge on 0808 808 8000.

Lifeline is available 24/7 for those experiencing distress, despair or feel that they are in crisis. On the call, we will assess the situation and the callers needs and if appropriate, we will aim to arrange a face to face appointment with a therapist between 5 and 10 days.

Lifeline is unique in that it is the only telephone helpline in Ireland that is staffed by fully qualified counsellors, not volunteers, offering immediate access to crisis risk assessment and rapid referral into face to face counselling.

Callers can use the Lifeline service for emotional support when experiencing distress and despair. It is a suicide and self harm reduction service and for this reason we risk assess every time we take or make a call to a client. Some callers will only ever require the support of the telephone helpline, whilst others may benefit from other additional wraparound supports. Either way, we offer an assessment to each new caller.

Why chose counselling?

Counselling provides people with the opportunity to explore feelings, thoughts and behaviour with a qualified and expert counsellor. Together they will explore possible coping strategies, unexpressed emotions, managing relationships, emotional resourcing and many other areas to support the person’s emotional and mental health development. It can also help them to understand situations and support them to make decisions about their lives. This can be a very useful and sometimes life–changing experience, which is why we believe that the best way to restore well being is through contact.

How far we will go

Contact have headquarters offices in Belfast at 1st Floor Lanyon Building, Jennymount, North Derby Street, Belfast, BT15 3HL.   However our work extends throughout NI through Lifeline 24/7 telephone counselling delivered by Contact and a range of contracted organisations.

We also provide a Schools Counselling and Creative Arts Therapy (individual and group work) for any schools who request it.

Recruitment and training

Contact recruits only the best–qualified counsellors Northern Ireland has to offer.  We have annual extensive Continuous Professional Development programs for those joining our organisation who wish to continue their clinical development. We also have a very well qualified Clinical Placement Team, who are in the final stages of their qualifications and working towards their BACP accreditation.

All of our Contact counsellors provide their services to Lifeline.

Induction to Contact/Lifeline requires up to 12 days hands on experimental induction training and shadowing shifts before being confirmed in post. It is not uncommon for counsellors keen to commence a career with Contact to interview two or three times before successful appointment.

Our trainee counsellor Clinical Placement programme is the most effective primary recruitment source for Contact. Our Locum and Clinical Placement resource also enables successful recruitment to full–time and part–time staff positions for Contact Counselling.

It has taken over 30 years for Contact to get to the point where we are now, as a major independent counselling service in Northern Ireland with referrals coming from GP’s, Social Workers, Teachers, Parents, community and voluntary organisations, psychiatrists and mental health teams, as well as self referrals.

The quality of our service

Contact have to meet extremely exacting criteria from the Department of Health and Social Services and Public Health Authority in order to secure the Lifeline project. The service is also under extensive ongoing evaluation from the PHA: professionals and other organisations are surveyed about their knowledge and experience of the service, and clients are surveyed regarding their experience of therapies provided. Measures used to evaluate include CORE10 and SDQ assessment and evaluation. Lifeline and Contact counsellors are also under daily, weekly, monthly and annual review.

The Chief Medical Officer has issued a directive to all health trusts requesting that they work collaboratively with the Lifeline project.

Protecting life is our primary aim and we communicate with a wide range of other services to ensure client safety and protection, following best practice in relation to interagency communication. In order for the service to be effective we need similar co–operation around appropriate information–sharing from other services.

At step one we regularly take referrals from GP’s, health visitors and other primary care workers. These referrals are often for clients who are experiencing a situational life crisis or who are suicidal. Through the Lifeline service, we at Contact can provide crisis intervention counselling and/or creative therapy.

At step two we often liaise with Family & Child Care Teams, Probation Officers, Mental Health Social Workers and others to help design an appropriate package of care for vulnerable adults and children who may need support around their suicidal ideation or recent suicide attempts. We will work together with other support agencies to determine where our crisis intervention services may be most useful.

At step three we often work in close partnership with CPN’s, CAMHS, CAIT teams and Crisis Response Home Treatment Teams in order to maintain and de–escalate people with serious suicidal ideation and self harm at home to avoid hospitalisation. We can provide “out of hours” support in the form of check–in’s on a nightly basis or more frequently if necessary, to support actively suicidal people to stay safe while remaining at home and receiving a home treatment package of care.

At step four we sometimes work with inpatient and outpatient psychiatry, ward sisters and nursing staff in specialist mental health wards or A&E’s. This work is often in supporting clients to access Mental Health services and assessments, as well as linking in with the psychiatric care package, providing check–in’s and follow up telephone and face to face services. We have on occasion alerted ward staff to risk presented to Lifeline from patients on their wards.

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