Emotional support, befriending or counselling: Which serves your clients best?

Emotional support, befriending or counselling: Which serves your clients best?

21st January 2021

By Melanie Tucker

When people are experiencing sadness, loneliness, anxiety, distress or mental ill health, they need someone to talk to. So, it is important to know how to get emotional support should you need it.

At Connect Assist, we’re proud to run emotional support, befriending and counselling services on behalf of several charities and other organisations.

We’d like to explain a little more about the difference between these three options to help you decide which one might suit your clients in their time of need.

Emotional well-being and mental health in the UK

According to leading charity Mind, in any given week one in six people will be experiencing a common mental health problem such as depression. Government figures show that just over 8% of people reported a low level of happiness, and 20% a high level of anxiety, in 2018.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, official statistics show that anxiety and loneliness has rocketed, particularly among disabled people. The impact is also notable among elderly people and those struggling to combine homeschooling with working from home.

emotional support

Another survey found that young people, women, people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions have been badly affected.

Mind, one of Connect Assist’s partners, has described the situation as a ‘mental health emergency’.

Many agencies are doing sterling work supporting people. They approach Connect Assist seeking to set up counselling services – but in our experience, that’s not always the best option.

Emotional support

Often, callers don’t need in-depth counselling – they just want to talk to an empathetic, attentive professional who won’t judge them. They could need help with specific issues, a place to vent their worries, or signposting towards further support.

They might prefer to contact a helpline via text, email or web chat rather than phone, as they find it easier to open up that way. It might also fit in better around their busy lives. They might call just once, or a few times.

All staff who respond are highly trained professionals, tailoring their approach to the person they’re communicating with and the reason why they’re needing emotional support. But they’re not asking the kind of searching questions or offering the structured support that counsellors do.


Even before the pandemic, there were believed to be around one million people over 65 who were often or always lonely in the UK. Loneliness can feed into depression and anxiety too.

Many isolated people just want a friend who will check in on them from time to time. That simple contact keeps them in touch with the outside world, and lets them raise any concerns.

The befriending services we provide are always outbound: our trained staff contact the people in need once a week (dependent on need) rather than wait for them to contact us. And our staff are always alert to any signs that the client is in need of any more in-depth support.


Some people, however, are in serious distress when they turn to a charity for help. Alternatively, they might speak first to an emotional support advisor or befriender, who realises they would benefit from counselling.

We employ qualified staff who offer callers structured, solution-focused support over a number of weeks to help them tackle the root causes of their mental health and emotional issues.

Our counsellors can provide services by phone, video or refer people for face-to-face sessions.


Counselling requires ongoing commitment from both the service provider and the caller, so it isn’t for everyone. But we’re proud to say that the counselling services we provide can enable people to restore their emotional wellbeing and turn their lives around.

Contact Connect Assist today

We’re the UK’s leading provider of inbound helplines, partnering with many national and local third and public sector organisations.

You can outsource your helplines to us, or we can operate on an overflow basis out-of-hours call handling or at times of peak demand.

Get in touch to discuss how we can work together. Alternatively, if you need emotional support or are looking for a befriending service, we can direct you to one of our partner organisations.


If you need our help in developing more effective, meaningful connections with customers, get in touch today.