In retrospect it is possible to see how from the beginning, we sowed the seeds of the problem by making me both chairman of the project and responsible for professional standards in the recruitment, training and support of the volunteers. All the excitement and development of the project was thereby focussed in one person. I can recall somewhat feebly expressing an anxiety about this at the time, but I was not altogether aware of the significance of what was happening, and in any event was told not to be so modest – the flattery was irresistible.
This position of course soon became isolated and worrying. The volunteer counsellors however also felt a similar anxiety in relation to their relationship with the clients. As the counsellor senses the vulnerability of the client and feels the clients’ image of their strength and invulnerability, so their anxiety rises. We discussed at some length, both in training and in the support groups, the problem of how to offer regular and sustained help at the end of the first visit. The volunteers wondered how they could know when they were not wanted. They were anxious not to be intrusive and felt as though they may carry all the responsibility for this. How could the vulnerable and grief stricken client resist the approaches of the helping agencies? On the other hand, the volunteers were aware of the danger of offering help so tentatively that it could not be accepted. In practice they seemed to handle this situation with considerable tact. We also saw how the clients would be responsible for how much they shared, and for taking protective action when feeling too exposed.