Struggling through a difficult period when he was at university studying psychology really brought home the value of counselling to Thomas. “Seeing first-hand how helpful counselling is really inspired me,” he says. Now Thomas is volunteering in our Macmillan Telephone Support team. This involves ringing up cancer patients and giving them emotional support over the phone. The role is helping him get closer to his goal of becoming a professional counsellor: he’s also taking a part-time counselling course at the University of the West of England.
“Some calls can be hard and quite emotional because people can be in acute distress,” says Thomas. “It’s such a privilege to help them cope in really difficult situations. It makes me feel stronger as a person.” Thomas practises lots of new techniques to support patients, like active listening, reflecting and holding back judgement. Every call is different, though: “Sometimes a person might be focused on the feedback forms, or another practical task they need to do. It’s nice to be in a role where there is that flexibility,” says Thomas. Sometimes he needs to signpost people to local organisations or services which can give more specific advice, like Citizens Advice.
Supported all the way
Thomas remembers being quite nervous before his first phone call, but he knew he had the support of the team to help him get through it. “After the first few I found it a lot less nerve-wracking and then I started to enjoy it,” he says. “Helen, the service lead, is there when I need her. She’s been great at supporting me and helping me process things.”
And what kind of people are best for this role? Someone who’s open, cares about the people they are speaking to, and values what they’re doing, says Thomas. If you are thinking about taking a role like this, “go for it,” he says. “Particularly if the thought of it makes you feel excited or nervous. That’s how I felt, and something told me that taking the risk would help me grow.”
Could this be you?
We’re always looking for telephone support volunteers. If you’re a good listener and love a chat on the phone, this might be the role for you. We need friendly, empathic people to ring up patients living with cancer or who have completed their treatment. You’ll check on their progress since their therapist last visited and provide emotional support over the phone.
Find out more: Macmillan Telephone Support Volunteer