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Crisis Support for Clients at Christmas

Many therapists will be gearing up for a break from the consulting room this week. But the Christmas and New Year holidays coincide with what, for many clients, is one of the most testing times of the year. Planning for this period together could include ensuring clients are aware of 24/7 services such as Shout, the UK’s first crisis text line. As Chief Clinical Officer Dr Fiona Pienaar explains, reaching out to this free, confidential service can help those who are struggling to navigate their flashpoints this festive season.


As we enter the last few weeks of the year, two big festive occasions are celebrated by millions around the UK – Christmas and New Year. While the masses appear to embrace the shopping, the tree trimming, the baking, the cooking, the eating and the drinking, many people find this time of the year particularly challenging. Perhaps people feel that there are enormous expectations associated with these occasions; that one has to be seen to be conforming to social and generational dictates, to mirror the perfect celebrations pitched to the public in festive season advertising, to strive to match or exceed the flawless festive season images on social media.

As therapists we will all know clients (and may be aware of people around us) who are likely to struggle at this time of the year. Pressure to spend time with family and other relations – even though they avoid doing so over the rest of the year – can leave some people vulnerable. Others may not have anyone to spend Christmas with. There may have been a recent grief and loss experience, such as separation or divorce, or the illness or death of a close one. The change in dynamics, the gaps at the table, and the anticipation of potentially overwhelming emotions can lead people to dread the festive season.

Financial challenges are another common issue, given the increased costs associated with this period. If loss of income is associated with redundancy, the stress can be multi-layered.

Whatever the contributing factors, Christmas and New Year can be flashpoints for people who are already struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. Their ability to cope can be severely challenged.

We cannot be available to our clients 24/7. Nor should we be – our mental health and wellbeing is key. However, there are steps we can take with them in the runup to this period. Helping clients think and plan in advance can go a long way towards giving them a sense of control and a feeling of calm about navigating Christmas and New Year. This may include identifying who they can spend time with, who they can turn to if they find they need support, and what services might be available to them over the holiday.

The 24/7 crisis text service, Shout, is a free, confidential service available for all. Your clients can text Shout to 85258 to speak to Crisis Volunteers, who are trained to help people in crisis move from a ‘hot moment to a cool calm’; in essence, to de-escalate the texter’s response to their crisis. The Volunteers are always supported on the platform by a team of experienced Clinical Supervisors. This is a service for the whole population, including those we know as ‘silver swipers’, the older generation who are rapidly adopting texting and messaging as a primary means of communication.

Further information about this service can be found at:

For your clients, the information they need is: text Shout to 85258

Of course there are other services available to support your clients during this period, including Samaritans. Call anytime, day or night on 116 123.

Wishing all of you a relaxed and joyous festive season and holiday period.


Fiona Pienaar

Fiona is Chief Clinical Officer for Mental Health Innovations (MHI) with responsibility for ensuring high standards of clinical direction and practice. Prior to her present role, Fiona was Director of Clinical Services at Place2Be. Fiona has a background of over 30 years of teaching and counselling in schools, counsellor education in higher education institutes, educational and mental health resource development, academic and clinical supervision, private practice and mental health consultation, research and writing. She has a PhD in Behavioural Science from the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, a MEd in Counselling, a Professional Certificate in Coaching (Henley Business School, England) and various other counselling, teaching and special needs qualifications.

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