Telephone counselling: first aid for mental emergencies

What do you do when you acutely need someone to talk to? When you don’t want to share your concerns with your private environment? Or even if you are in a psychological crisis and don’t know what steps you should take to get out of it? Exactly in these cases it is helpful to know the German telephone counselling service.

How does the Telefonseelsorge help and who works there?

The Telefonseelsorge is a 24-hour free hotline for anyone who wants to share their worries and is in a difficult life situation. Regardless of age, gender or religion, the staff provides support for the following issues:

  • Conflicts in relationships
  • Bullying at school or at work
  • Job loss
  • Addiction
  • Illness
  • Crises of meaning
  • Loneliness
  • Suicidality
  • and many more

The aim is not to provide professional psychotherapeutic counseling, but rather to lend a sympathetic ear to those affected and, if necessary, to refer them to other help centers. The basic principles are that time is taken, attentive listening, appreciation is conveyed and no judgment is made. The telephone counselling service is now celebrating its 67th birthday and was originally founded to provide rapid help for people with suicidal thoughts and intentions. It is run by the Catholic and Protestant churches. Today, nearly 300 permanent employees and 7700 volunteers with a wide variety of life and professional skills work in more than 100 branches throughout Germany. Each employee undergoes at least 120 hours of training and is accompanied by regular supervision.

How do I reach the telephone counselling service?

As already mentioned, the telephone counselling service is primarily a hotline that can be reached at the following numbers:

  • 0800/111 0 111 (Catholic)
  • 0800/111 0 222 (Protestant)
  • 116 123 (life assistance)

There are also services for people who are reluctant to share their concerns over the phone, for which counseling is available as follows:

In addition, Telefonseelsorge provides information on international help centers:

Can incoming calls be tracked?

From a purely technical point of view, every call can be tracked in today’s age. However, the telephone counselling service takes the protection of anonymity very seriously and ensures data protection by not displaying any call numbers to the employees and also not recording any conversations. In addition, each caller decides for him or herself what information to disclose and receives a guarantee that any content discussed will remain confidential.

How are threats to self or others dealt with?

The employees deal openly with this issue and address it directly if the caller indicates intentions to endanger himself or others. This ensures that the person seeking help feels taken seriously and is given the opportunity to think about alternatives and to seek professional help after the call. It is very important to emphasize once again that no one needs to worry that employees will contact the police or fire department against the caller’s will. They merely follow the instructions that the caller specifically gives them. This boundary is quite important, especially for volunteers: they are not guilty of any prosecution regarding failure to assist.

Facts and figures – How many people call on the help of the telephone counselling service?

The current statistics of the telephone counselling service report 1,247,522 calls, 43,635 e-mail contacts and 32,023 chat requests in 2021. 47,422 people seeking help presented themselves on the spot. The most common issues for which support was sought were as follows:

Thus, the telephone counseling service represents a point of contact for any person with any type of problem. Do not hesitate to call if you need help! There is no problem that is too small and no emotional situation that is too insignificant to seek help in this way, without any obligation.

  • TelefonSeelsorge┬« Deutschland e.V.:, accessed on 03.02.2023.
Verena Klein
Author Verena Klein
"LIMES Schlosskliniken specializes in the treatment of mental and psychosomatic illnesses. With the help of the blog, we as a clinic group would like to examine the various mental illnesses in more detail and present different therapies as well as current topics."

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