Listening – Confidential, non-judgemental and non-advice

I started volunteering for Samaritans many years ago when I was in Bournemouth, away from my family, with time to spare. It was around the same time that I was training to be a coach and my listening skills, particularly on the telephone, benefited amazingly.

So how is volunteering for the Samaritans different being a coach, and how is coaching different from being a mentor?

The vision for Samaritans is to be there for peopleby listening to them whether it be face to face, telephone, email or by text in order to support them and so try to reduce the number of suicides taking place. Calls can vary significantly from people having a difficult time, struggling to cope or often just to get things off their chest and out of their head. The service provided isfree, totally confidential, non-judgmental and non-advice and isavailable to anyone 24/7 365 days a year. Often issues are from the long and distant past which people can’t get out of their heads. On my way to the centre I need to put my Samaritan hat on and when I leave take it off again

By the way my wife Jo and I are doing a 25km Thames Walk in aid of Samaritans on October 27th if anybody would like to donate, please visit

So how is coaching different? Certainly, coaching is confidential. The coach is probably more likely to put views forward, but in the main, by asking the right questions, hopefully will support the coachee in coming up with the right answers for themselves and then help the coachee follow their actions through. Most coaching is through programmes aimed at specific objectives including accountability in future sessions and knowing how the coachee has benefited at the end of the programme. This might be they have got the job or promotion they wanted or have a better life/work balance. With Samaritans you never really know the outcome and you just hope that caller contact has made a positive impact on the person. Coaching is mainly looking forward, learning from past mistakes but with the focus being very much on the future and being positive.

So how is mentoring different? The main difference here surrounds advice. Most mentors are more experienced and have achieved things including status and the mentee wants to learn from this expert in their own particular field. I have been on a couple of mentoring courses and they have been diluted coaching courses, as generally people don’t want to be told things in this day and age. Also, the organisation offering mentors does not want to be in a liability situation if the wrong advice is given.

So, what do I conclude from this? This probably relates to the state of mind of the person wanting support. If people are stuck in the past, they need to remedy these issues first before they can move on. So many people suffer from mental health issues these days and it is vital that they get the right sort of support through therapy or counselling. Too often this support is not available or takes too long to be given. It is only when people have resolved issues from the past that they can really move forward. When the person is ready, both mentoring (often for technical support) and coaching (for anything else if the coachee is willing) can support the individual going forward.

If you know of anybody who needs the support of Samaritans telephone 116123, email or text

For anybody who wants to move forward by either coaching or mentoring (as long as I have the right knowledge) get in touch with or visit my website

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