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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01936

Attachment Style of Volunteer Counselors in Telephone Emergency Services Predicts Counseling Process

 Ulrike Dinger1*, Simone Jennissen1 and Isabelle Rek1
  • 1Heidelberg University Hospital, Germany

Telephone emergency services (TES) play an important role in counseling and suicide prevention. The current study examines a potential change of volunteer counselors’ attachment characteristics during TES training and investigates the predictive influence of counselor attachment for their competence and working alliance with callers. We recruited 261 volunteers enrolled in training for paraprofessional counseling in the German Telephone Emergency System (Telefonseelsorge). Participants were assessed three times during their training (mean training duration 13.3 months) and responded to questionnaires on adult attachment (Experience in Close Relationships-Revised) and their counseling competence (adapted Development of Psychotherapists Common Core Questionnaire). In addition, they indicated the quality of the working alliance (adapted Working Alliance Inventory – Short, Revised) with their client callers upon training completion. Results showed that attachment anxiety, but not attachment avoidance, significantly decreased during training. Lower attachment avoidance predicted better working alliances with callers as well as better general skillfulness. Implications for training of volunteer telephone counselors are discussed.

Keywords: Attachment, helpline, telephone emergency services, paraprofessional volunteers, Counseling, Therapeutic Alliance

Received: 10 Jan 2019; Accepted: 06 Aug 2019.

Edited by:

Nuno B. Rocha, Escola Superior de Saúde do Porto, Politécnico do Porto, Portugal

Reviewed by:

Daniela Gentile, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Gianluca Esposito, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore  

Copyright: © 2019 Dinger, Jennissen and Rek. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Ulrike Dinger, Heidelberg University Hospital, Heidelberg, Germany,