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Project BRUS: It’s difficult to sit on my hands!

Project BRUS is an available treatment option for children and young people coming from families suffering from substance related problems, and from the start, they have chosen to complement their physical practice with a digital strategy in collaboration with Centre for Digital Youth Care (CfDP). The primary digital function entails communicating with young people via chat, however, CfDP has also assisted BRUS in recruiting young people online as well as establishing a youth-friendly website for the purpose of the project. In this article, you can learn more about how BRUS use the chatroom as a tool in their counselling in a practical context.

Breaking the taboo on drug-borne families

Most importantly, project BRUS help young people break the taboo on alcohol or drugs in families. They do this by articulating young people’s experiences, either through physical meetings or through anonymous chat counselling. BRUS would also like to help break the taboo with parents, if needed. Liability arrangement is part of BRUS’ work on taboos and articulating young people’s experiences, since quite a few young people assume way too much responsibility. BRUS allow young people the opportunity to let go of a responsibility which is not theirs in the first place, and instead, allowing them to focus on their own needs. Elisa Baunsgaard, treatment provider with BRUS, explains that a lot of young people she encounters in her work, find it hard to really feel their own emotions:

”We help young people notice how they feel so that they may be aware of their own boundaries as well as getting a sense of what their responsibility is and what is not. We help empower them to act by making them agents in their own lives.”

The chat counselling is reaching a broader target group of young people

Although digital counselling is still rather new at BRUS, they have no doubt that it has got many benefits. Through a digital chat, BRUS may reach a broader target group of young people who need adult contact. It may be young people who do not trust the treatment system and who would never enter a physical practice, but then, through chatting, might regain faith that help is out there – and more importantly, that somebody wants to help them. Likewise, the chatroom provides young people the opportunity to practice saying things aloud in an anonymous and casual room where they, safely, can see how their words are responded to by other people.

The chatroom is also a flexible tool that makes a process possible for young people who find it difficult to make time for BRUS in their daily opening hours, or who live far away from the physical location of BRUS. This way, the chat counselling can help maintain and motivate young people in-between the physical conversations.

Chatting with someone you cannot see, nor hear

Regarding challenges, Elisa Baunsgaard does not hide the fact that there are certain challenges associated with the chat counselling as a tool: “I’m used to working with physical attendance and contact where I can read young people and balance myself to the one I’m in a dialogue with face to face. So, personally and professionally, it’s a challenge chatting to someone you can’t see or hear. There’s no mimic.” Elisa also mentions that it is new for her to “sit on her hands,” that is, listening to young people’s stories and experiences without going directly to solutions or action plans. As a social worker and a treatment provider, Elisa Bundgaard is used to take action, for example, calling a young person’s family or school teachers. Chat counselling is different, and she acknowledges that it requires some effort of adjustment.

Maintaining anonymity, even though you may recognise a young person with whom you’ve chatted to before, for example, is also a challenge. As a starting point, all chat sessions must be considered unique, so someone may tell their story again and again and thus, practice articulating something that is difficult. At times, this is challenging for treatment providers who usually have the opportunity to follow up on the content from conversation to conversation. In this connection, BRUS have chosen to show their first names in the chatroom in order that a young person have the option of choosing to continue a previous conversation with the same treatment provider, or instead, “wiping the board clear” each time.

The chat counselling’s future in project BRUS

Already, BRUS have some suggestions regarding their chat counselling in the future. Among others, it may be used as a shelter for young people who have stopped in project BRUS, however, still needing someone to talk to. This could be done by making young people appoint a specific time for a chat or by using the weekly open BRUS chat. Such a shelter could be used for both individual sessions and group sessions. The chat counselling as a shelter could also be used for young people who have had to opt out of a physical process at BRUS due to, for example, relocation or a post-school stay. Thus, they could continue their process via chat conversations and have proper closure.

Please get in touch with Signe Sandfeld Hansen if you would like to know more about BRUS’ use of their chat counselling.

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