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Dealing with unhelpful councillors on helplines

Elizabeth CP
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

I'm deliberately not naming the helpline I called because I don't want to put people off calling when they need help just because one person wasn't very helpful.

am seeking ideas from others about how to deal with the situation when you ring a helpline & then find the response unsatisfactory. People are human so don't always respond in the best way.

I was feeling extremely anxious on the weekend after being triggered by the weather. )I have PTSD so the weather brought back very bad thoughts & fears) I was getting worse & unable to cope so rang a helpline for advice. The person proceeded to tell me the therapy my psych has been providing is wrong & then told me a few things I could do to help He then said I should be able to fix my problems on my own if I try hard enough. This just made me feel useless as if it is my fault for not doing enough to help myself. I felt that the person had no idea what I had been through & was very upset to be told my psych was wrong ( which i don't believe is true).

I just gave up feeling misunderstood & unable to explain myself.

Have others go ideas to help in situations like this.

10 Replies 10

Just Sara
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hey Elizabeth;

Whew...I know this scenario well as I've been calling a helpline for many years now. It's only happened twice and both times I sent an email to them saying what had happened and how I felt afterwards.

They replied saying sorry, but also thankyou as this type of feedback is really important for training and supervision purposes.

I was ok with this because I'm all for building skills and accepting not everyone can be a gift to us poor souls.

Please don't take it to heart ok; it's more about that person than it ever could be about you. I think most of their consultants are really helpful and kind in how they approach our pain.

I'd urge you to email [them] providing the time, date and upsetting details of that conversation. It might help with closure as well.

Hope this helps...

Sez x

Yes! I had a similar experience one time when I was simply in a state of extreme sadness and frustration and when I was telling my story I was interrupted by the person on the helpline... he rambled on for a little while... I was too snapped out of my emotion to even listen. I was kind of shocked that he interrupted me to start talking after asking what was going on with me. He eventually asked that I not swear because it upsets him. I asked "are you talking to me?" very casually. He said "yes" and I hung up on him. I called mensline instead... figured they could handle a few naughty words while I expressed myself. I laughed about it moments later because of how absurd I found it. I do thank the guy, he snapped me out of my emotion, but still... he made me feel more like it was me against the world for a moment which is not a feeling I would like to encourage. I did email the people and gave them pretty reasonable feedback about being better listeners. I got a nice apology reply and thankyou like Sara said in her post. It did make me feel better to know that someone was giving thought and consideration to what someone is trying to communicate, not just the bad words they say.

Community Champion
Community Champion

Dear Elizabeth~

I was sorry to read you had been affected by the weather -totally understandable considering your past, and I feel very much that you sought a form of comfort and was badly let down.

All reputable crisis lines train their staff, or employ persons wiht clinical qualifications. Even so some people simply do not do the job well, and yours sounds such a case.

As you can see from the above the only way that the population as a whole is going to be a able to rely upon help lines is for there to be active quality control, and that starts with us, the consumer. If we raise the problems each time then hopefully we end up with more skilled councilors.

I agree those on the lines do need an opportunity to grow, but that come from having mistakes corrected by their supervisors.

I remember one time ringing a crisis line and coming away actually feeling sorry for the young gentleman who had so earnestly tried to help. He must have had a sheet in front of him called "reasons for living" and worked his way though the lot -to no effect. A more experienced operator would have changed subject and tried a different tack.

Unfortunately the waits for the good organizations are getting longer and they too are feeling the pressure .



Elizabeth CP
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Thank you Croix Sara & Probablynotmyfault,

I didn't think about contacting the helpline to report the problem. I think I was struggling to cope anyway & didn't need extra things to deal with so I tried to put it to the back of my mind but it has been bothering me since even though I knew he was incorrect. I should follow your advice for the sake of others.

I wonder if anyone has tips of what to say if a counsellor is not listening or way out of line.

Hi Elizabeth CP

I'm really sorry that happened to you.

I called a suicide helpline a number of years ago and I felt more suicidal after that call than I did before I phoned.

The person said "You have 5 minutes" then only said the time "You have 4 mins 30 seconds and I'll hang up" etc etc etc down to 30 seconds then he hung up.

If I hadn't remembered what another psychologist had said to me, who knows what would have happened next.

Interesting how most people here have said "he".

I had another person earlier this year and he was so completely OFF track that I wondered if he was talking to me or thinking of another call. Just said things nothing to do with what I was saying. Tbh I also wondered if he was under the influence of substances - it was that weird.

Hence I call only one helpline now. I can guarantee they know my story as they've taken notes for years and I can always be put through to a Trauma Psych. All female.

What should you do?

Yeah it would have been impossible for me to even think of finding out how to report the suicide helpline person at the time.

I guess you could:
Hang up.
Don't call that one again.
Call one you've felt more comfortable with.

Btw I have a voice recorder on my phone, I was told to by Police. Certainly comes in handy at times.

The "clicks" each helpline gets form data to get more funding.
The best thing we can do is to AVOID the "bad" ones and use the ones we trust.

They'll get more funding and maybe SOMEWHERE down the line SOMEONE will ask WHY that helpline is more popular than the others... maybe.


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Elizabeth CP, I sorry for what you were told 'should be able to fix my problems on my own if I try hard enough' is not helpful and inexcusable, simply for the reason that you have rung them in desperation, caught at a low time when you wanted to speak to someone urgently.

Yes if only we could fix these problems ourselves, but MI doesn't allow this, it blocks and confuses us and unable to think clearly with any positive attitude.

I've seen psychologists and psychiatrists who told me they can do nothing to help me unless I stopped drinking, but why didn't they realise that I was drinking because of a reason I was struggling with and why didn't they try and investigate, too difficult, didn't care and only wanted to choose the patients that interest them.

MI doesn't operate like this, it includes everyone who is suffering from it and that's exactly the reason why we need to talk to someone.

Whether this person was just starting, it was just too soon.

Take care.


Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member
Hi Elizabeth you are certainly not the only one with a bad experience with a helpline.I have rung them in the past and had a bad experience last year when I rung one a d I was really upset and crying and trying to explain what was going on with me and the lady hung up after she said she couldn't understand me and hungup.I rung the helpline straight back and told the guy who answered what had happen and he didn't basically believe me so I am not game to ring helplines again and have fear of the same thing happening.I only use these forums now and feel hardly anyone really cares but I just like to write down my thoughts here as this is the only way I have to communicate these days.
I think the suggestion of reporting what had happened to you Elizabeth is great idea and I wish I had done it by email but I was to upset at the time to think of that.
Take care,


Welcome to the forum and well done for making your first post.

Thanks for making your first post by sharing your experience with help lines to help others.

I am glad you gave and received feedback after your experience.


Thanks for starting this thread but I am sorry you had this upsetting experience.

You asked for “tips of what to say if a counsellor is not listening or way out of line.”

I suppose it depends on the context but I have said that I am getting confused with the conversation and what I really need I support, or some understanding of my situation or whatever you want at the time.

of course when you are stressed and upse it is hard to think straight so having a small list of things you discuss .

if you are feeling useless I would tell the person how their words are making you feel.

I know when I am upset I find loads of information too much to process but also find it hard to communicate.

Maybe at the star of the call say what is you want from the call, to be listened to, to get support to be understood or whatever is your need.

These are only my thoughts and may not help you Elizabeth. I realise we call help lines when we are feeling low.

Matchy sorry about .your experience . I am sorry that experience out you off helplines.
This is a supportive place and there are understanding helplines. I once cried for several minutes and the person just spoke softly to me till I could talk.

Writing down is good I do that too.

Thanks again Elizabeth . There are helplines that are very supportive. I know people who find them very useful. I hope that your experience does not put others off.
If you were up to it may be send an email to the helpline and explain your experience. I think the more feedback good at bad helps the service.