[caption id="attachment_13666" align="aligncenter" width="630"]Cyberhus.dk Cyberhus.dk where Copenhagen offer their anonymous chat counselling[/caption]

A growing need for digital youth counselling

Bispebjerg’s chat counselling is an example of a new collaboration opportunity which Cyberhus have presented to municipal youth counsellings. Bispebjerg’s chatroom is open twice a week, and even though there has not been much marketing, youngsters have still found their way to the chatroom every time a youth counsellor has been present and ready to chat. Johnny Szumlanski says that the Bispebjerg-chat is an effort to meet a growing need in children and young people, with whom they are in daily contact, and which they have been aware of for quite some time: “I’m experiencing a great need for us, the youth counsellors, to start using digital media when counselling children and young people. Youngsters do not get less digital over time – on the contrary. And as counsellors, we have to meet our young people where they are. Our chat counselling offers youngsters better opportunities for getting in contact with us – particularly young people who find it difficult to visit our physical counselling in person,” says Johnny Szumlanski. Szumlanski also explains that youngsters are already requesting more resources in the chatroom. For instance, someone wrote and asked if it was possible for Bispebjerg counselling to have more counsellors available in the chatroom, because one day he had waited more than 30 min. for his turn.

Anonymous chat is a platform for new questions

Johnny Szumlanski explains that a completely new group of young people are asking new types of questions after having started Bispebjerg chat counselling. For instance, a greater number of young guys are seeking advice and asking questions about emotions and sex, which is something the counsellors of Bispebjerg have never experienced: “I’ve been a youth counsellor for 15 years, so I’ve spoken to hundreds of young people, and I have never heard a boy ask questions about sex and feelings, unless it’s a boy that I’ve known very well and for a long time. It’s a subject that boys typically find very difficult to talk about. That is why we’ve never had such requests from boys before. However, that has changed now that we’re offering chat counselling,” says Johnny Szumlanski. Young people ask questions in chat counsellings which they do not put forward face-to-face. Johnny Szumlanski explains that the reason for this is the fact that chat counselling is anonymous, and thus boundaries are pushed regarding young people’s forwardness with counsellors. Youngsters therefore feel more safe sharing their emotions and talking about subject matters which they do not bring to light somewhere else. “For example, a guy chatted about his girlfriend problems. He wrote that he felt upset and that he was not able to sleep at night because he was thinking about a girl. He did not know if this girl liked him, and he was in great doubt what he should do. Of course, this is one of our more “lightweight” questions, but it is still something that means a lot to young people in their teenage lives,” says Johnny Szumlanski, and continues: ”We also had a 15-year-old guy who wrote us. He’d been going steady with his girlfriend for some time, and they wanted to sleep together, but she was not 15 until another two months. They REALLY liked each other, he wrote in capital letters, so they found it difficult to wait. But at the same time, he was afraid what might happen, because he knew that sex before 15 years of age is illegal.” According to Johnny Szumlanski, all gives evidence to the fact that chat counselling helps boys open up. However, although chat counselling generally invites young people to talk about new types of issues, Johnny Szumlanski explains that a great number of youngsters also address issues which Bispebjerg’s counsellors are familiar with from their youth counselling.
[caption id="attachment_13668" align="aligncenter" width="630"]Cyberhus.dk Copenhagen’s chat counselling on Cyberhus.dk[/caption]

Digital media creates new challenges

As part of their co-operation agreement, Cyberhus has helped prepare Bispebjerg’s chat counsellors to give counsel via digital media and meeting different challenges that may arise. Also, Bispebjerg continues its dialogue with Cyberhus and receives professional sparring from Cyberhus-counsellors. Johnny Szumlanski does not hide the fact that they step into new territory and that it is different to counsel young people via digital media, but that does not scare him. ”Of course it’s new and different to give counsel in a chatroom, but basically we would like young people to reflect – as they do when we speak to a youngster in our physical counselling. And you continue to be educated,” says Johnny Szumlanski: ”As a youth counselling, we must open our doors the best way possible to be able to meet our young people when they reach out, and in order that they receive their preferred type of counselling. This way, we ensure that we reach and help more young people out there. So far, we have a 10 time greater success rate with our chat counselling than that of our physical counterpart, and this clearly shows that our chat counselling is popular among young people, so we will definitely continue,” Szumlanski concludes.]]>