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A Survey on Chinese Counseling Hotline Services

COVID-19 first outbroke in Wuhan at the very beginning of 2020, and quickly spread across the country, and over the world. WHO made the claim that the outbreak of COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic worldwide on March 11th. With a series of actions implemented as public health emergency interventions by the Chinese government, the pandemic has been well controlled. In the meanwhile, from late January 2020, over 400 Counseling Hotlines have been established or modified crisis intervention hotlines in Mainland-China to help people deal with the panic of the unknown and help to maintain psychological health. Due to the highly contagious and infectious feature of COVID-19, citizens all over the country have been motivated to stay home, which makes hotline services become one of the most available ways to get the mental health services.

In the aim of helping the residents receive appropriate, quality guaranteed hotline services, as well as to help to build the norm of hotline services in Mainland China, the Division of Clinical and Counseling Psychology Chinese Psychological Society and the Registration System Congress of Chinese Clinical and Counseling Psychologists launched a project of investigating the running of hotline services on February 15, 2020. Up to now, 416 Counseling Hotline service administrators have participated in this project.

The evaluation system contains 23 indexes which could be classified into 5 dimensions, including working facilities, professional qualification of counselors, service norm and management standards.

Seventy-eight top hotlines, which maintain high standard in both professional and service quality have been recommended to the public in four stages. Several shared characters have been found among these hotlines.

  1. Mental health professionals such as psychology and psychiatry professors in universities and psychiatrists were deeply engaged in the organization and management of the hotline services.
  2. Counselors who worked for these hotlines were screened or under some circumstances, interviewed online to make sure they have appropriate competence in counseling. Usually, counselors that have been chosen, tend to have great enthusiasm with a master’s degree in relative discipline, or a certificate of counselor.
  3. There is a professional and practical work manual for the hotline service supplier, which includes the crisis intervention procedure, referral scheme and regulations for hotline counselors.
  4. They tend to have a supervision system implemented by competent supervisors. Many hotlines invited Registered Supervisors of Chinese Psychological Society to supervise counselors’ work. Hierarchical supervisory schema has been built in those hotline services with more than a hundred counselors, which means they arrange supervisors with groups of counselors and deliver the supervision to groups of counselors by higher level supervisors.
  5. Pre-job training and essential learning resources were available and the work atmosphere was supportive.
  6. Reliable telecommunication devices and proper encryption techniques were adopted. New techniques have been adopted in addition to the traditional hotline form, including virtual telephone supported by telecommunications system and mobile apps, which were designed specifically for these special circumstances. This improved the convenience of multi-line access and transfer. Some hotlines, such as Ministry of Education-Central China Normal University (MOE-CCNU) Mental Health Service Platform, has also developed a text counseling platform. With the support of this technology, the counselors could serve the clients through audio or video chat, or even text from their residence with the guarantee of confidentiality.

In addition, the Registration System Congress of Chinese Clinical and Counseling Psychologists have published the Guideline of Counseling Hotline First-aid and the Implementing Regulations of Ethics of Counseling Hotline Service during the outbreak of COVID-19, which have provided guidance to hotline service professionals and promoted the virtuous development of hotline work. Many hotlines are organized and operate according to these guidelines.

As a matter of fact, work through hotlines gives the counselors more flexibility in working arrangements and help to cut off the direct contact with others, which has helped to slow down the spread of the virus while making psychological help accessible during the pandemic. Therefore, it is no wonder that some of the hotlines have received tens of thousands of calls in the last two months as it is such a widely covered way of delivering psychological assistance. In addition, with the time limitation of each call to the hotline, the service has to be served in a more directive manner, which is a good match to the anticipation of clients in Chinese culture. All in all, counseling hotline service in China has played an active role in the release of social pressure and rebuilding of a routine of daily life before the pandemic.

Director of the counseling center of Oriental Insight

Cite This Article

Cheng, Y. & Lin, X. (2020, May). A survey on Chinese counseling hotline services. [Web article]. Retrieved from



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