The GRC-Online Counseling System allows professional consultants to provide advice and support to people seeking help in all fields of social work – no longer exclusively face-to-face in the counseling centers but (additionally or completely) online. It opens up a confidential digital communication room for social work which is equivalent to the existing meeting room in the counseling centers.
Counseling centers are usually heavily frequented while at the same time advice capacities are too low. Due to the corona pandemic and its social consequences for millions of people, the demand for help and advice will expectedly increase.
Even before the pandemic, there was a trend emerging: people looking for advice are increasingly looking for help on the internet first – before considering going to a counseling center. As a result, counseling centers, that only offer face-to-face counseling, run the risk of losing customers to partly dubious offers on the internet.
On top of that, there have always been people, who would not go to a counseling center in person at all. The GRC-Online Counseling System reaches target groups, which the counseling centers would not have reached otherwise. It closes a gap and grants all those seeking advice and help a low-threshold access to advice and social work.
Technical details & Operations
Counselees turn to the advice centers via a «messenger app» on their smartphones, e.g. to the migration counseling service, the debt counseling or many other social work offers. In the counseling center, the specialists answer from the computer on a «counseling interface», where they give advice, and manage their case work. The specialists also have a so-called «internal specialist exchange» platform, which is integrated into the counseling interface and in which they can exchange ideas with one another, share information and give each other collegial advice.
Deployment & Impact
All kinds of counseling centers and other organizations offering social work at the Red Cross as well as external organizations can use the system. Both, counsellors and counselees, benefit from the introduction of online counseling:
Advantages for counseling centers and other social work offers of the GRC (as well as external organisations):
With a digital offer, the GRC can achieve a greater reach to people, who live distantly from centers, are not able to schedule because of their jobs, who are physically or mentally impaired. It offers a low-threshold and anonymous access to help and advice.
Counsellors at the GRC learn specific online counseling methods and thus expand their skills, which also has a direct effect on their face-to-face work.
Advice centers are relieved when counselees can send interim questions or documents quickly and easily online.
Complex consulting topics can be sent in writing, with links, texts, and provided with forms.
In the «internal specialist exchange» included in the system, counsellors can give digital collegial advice and exchange. This contributes to an increase in competencies, quality and job satisfaction through collaboration.
Advantages for those seeking advice and help:
Those looking for advice can find consultation where they usually first seek for help: on the internet. With the GRC-Online Counseling System they obtain professional advice.
Sensitive documents such as official letters, health records and advice requests can be sent safely to the advice centers.
Assistance can be requested at any time, regardless of opening times and without having to take long journeys.
Counselees can remain anonymous, which is particularly important for vulnerable target groups. Problems related to fear and anxiety are also more likely to be addressed online.
Consultation in writing makes advice fully understandable for consultees, which strengthens their self-help competencies.