I met Steve Rumsford back in June when I visited the Little London sim for the very first time, Steve owned the Heavenly Nightclub and it was clear to me, even then, that he was a great communicator. Steve ran a successful club and people were able to relax in his company. So it came as no surprised when I heard that Steve wanted to broaden his horizons in SL and take the more serious role of helping people. Steve is now offering a counselling service called the 'Amber Project' in-world in the sim he knows so well – Little London owned by Katrina Pascale!
I wanted to know more about Steve’s new counselling service and he kindly answered some questions for me. I asked Steve where he got the idea from about a counselling service, he told me “It was a project that I had always wanted to do, and after setting up my own club I decided to get it off the ground, Little London seemed the perfect place due to the friendly community and sociable atmosphere.” I wanted to know if Steve had always been interested in helping people and if he was bringing his real life plans into SL, he said “I’m hoping to bring my life experience and my ability to talk to people, I have a customer service related job and spend most of my day talking to people, I find that when people start to talk to me they also want to talk about their issues as well and I feel I’m a good listener, this is what inspired me really.”
I asked Steve what areas of counselling he would expect to cover, and if he would deal with people’s real life as well as in-world anxieties, he answered “Anything really, we have already had some enquiries regarding depression, but I think the problems will be varied, we will cover both real life and SL problems and will strive to help people as much as we can, although there may be areas that will be out of our range, we will try and guide people to the right places so that they can receive the proper help, this could be anything from putting them in contact with another counsellor to giving them links to a website like citizens advice bureau or Samaritans etc.....” I wanted to know if Steve thought counselling in SL would be safe, as there may not be any knowledge of someone’s background to assess them, and they may need professional help. Steve told me “This is a concern, but I do believe that people who need help over a certain period of time will start to connect with our staff, we will, in difficult cases, recommend more sessions so we can get to know the real problem underneath, we will always give people the numbers and links as well of agencies if they need, and support them in any decisions they choose to take.”
Will the communication with people who seek help remain in-world, or would you expect to get in touch with them in real life? I asked Steve, he said “For the privacy of the client I believe at the time all communication will remain in SL, but out of world communication will be something we will look at down the line.” I asked Steve to tell me a little bit about counselling, he said “The main thing is that we give them time to tell us what is wrong and have confidence that everything they tell us is in private, we will listen to the our clients, then try and help them sort through their issues.”
I asked Steve how many people would be involved in this new service, he told me “We have a constantly growing team, some of which are counsellors in real life, we have a mediator, an advisor and counsellor who is a real life counsellor, our mediator will deal with relationship issues, our advisor will give advice for everyday issues and our counsellor is trained in behavioural therapy and depression, we also deal with other issues as well and can refer the client to other counsellors who are willing to help.” I wanted to know if people will have to make appointments, or if they can just drop in, he told me “They can do both, they can book an appointment or drop in for a chat, we have a on-line staff board in our offices so people can contact us through them.”
I asked Steve if he want to add anything else, he said “I really just want to remind people that we are here to help you in anyway we can, our services are free, though you can tip the centre if you wish, and we are available anytime and promise to reply to you in 24 hours.”
I really admire Steve for offering this service, SL just like real life can be a lonely place for some people, and finding someone to talk to on-line, who will listen and offer advice, is such a good idea, especially if the person is too shy to seek advice face to face with a counsellor in real life. SL offers that anonymity that may give people the courage to sort out their problems with a friendly and helpful counsellor without feeling awkward or embarrassed. Well done Steve the counselling service is a brilliant idea!