Finding a ‘deaf aware’ counsellor?
While counselling directories do not specifically give information about ‘deaf awareness’, professional counselling organisations may be able to help you find a ‘deaf aware’ counsellor.
For example the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) website says they will try to help you locate accessible practitioners or services (minicom service available). Also, once you have identified some counsellors you think you might want to meet, this is an important question to ask when you first make contact with them.
The hearing environment
Do tell the counsellor you have a hearing loss and explain what is helpful to you – and what is not. For example:
- You might benefit if the counsellor is not sitting too far away from you and is positioned where light will fall on their face. That might mean moving the chairs in the room.
- Tell the counsellor if you are struggling to understand them – don’t just nod or smile.
- Ask the counsellor to speak a little louder/slower or to rephrase what they said as you are having difficulty following what was being said.
- Explain that you need to lipread so it would help if they look at you when they speak and avoid covering their mouth.
Communication during the counselling session
Counselling expert Teresa Brasier says ‘As a counsellor working with hearing impaired people, I take responsibility for making sure my clients can understand me. For some clients that will mean making sure the room is quiet and well lit. Others might want to use the personal loop system.
For those with profound hearing loss, I will often use a laptop linked to another laptop or an iPad. I type what I would normally say and the text appears on the other screen which is in front of my client. The client can speak back to me so they don’t have to use the computer. Sometimes my spelling is a bit wonky and it takes a bit of getting used to, but if you’ve ever used STTR, Skype or MSN Messenger, it’s the same idea. It means we have instant communication.
A couple of clients have said to me that they nearly didn’t come to the first session because they were fed up with not being able to understand the audiologist / doctor / social worker but when they walked in and saw that I could communicate easily with them they felt such a sense of relief.
Of course, as a hearing impaired person, you have a right to communication support if you need it, so you could always ask for a notetaker or palantypist to be in the session. Usually, though, it is more comfortable without a third person in the room and all a counsellor needs to be able to do is type fairly competently and have the equipment.’