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Expertness of Counselors in SNS Counseling

Research Topic
Expertness of counselors in SNS counseling

Lead Researcher
Yasushi Sugihara, Director/Professor, General Student Support Center of Kyoto University

Joint Researchers
Toshio Kawai, Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University

Yasuhiro Tanaka, Professor, Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University

Yukiko Uchida, Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University

Chihiro Hatanaka, Senior Lecturer, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University

Yuka Suzuki, Assistant Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University

Masataka Nakayama, Program-Specific Assistant Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University

Hisae Konakawa, Research Fellow, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University


1) Research Objective
Suicide, bullying, and other mental and psychological problems in today’s Japanese society are becoming more and more serious. With the recent shift to social networking services (SNS) as communication tools, especially among the younger generations, it has become an urgent issue to establish a highly accessible counseling system based on SNS, incorporating the functions of telephone counseling services like Inochi-no-denwa, the Japanese-language suicide prevention line. In response to this demand, SNS counseling using the application “LINE” launched in 2017. It was found in our previous study that the potential need for this service is considerably high, because the number of people who accessed the service was five times higher than the number of people who actually used the service (Sugihara, 2018).

Furthermore, since the COVID-19 outbreak began in early 2020, SNS counseling, which is not face to face and can be accessed from anywhere, has been attracting more attention as a psychological support system for emergencies. Therefore, the training of SNS counselors who can respond professionally has become an urgent issue.

The lead researcher of this project also participated in the other KRC project “SNS Counselling and Community Support” as a member of the research team. In this project specifically, we will examine the expertise of counselors. At present, the number of certified public psychologists, clinical psychologists, and other specialists in the counseling field is insufficient. However, in light of the current high demand for SNS counselling services, it is certain that this type of counselling service will continue to increase. In order to ingrain SNS counseling into our society appropriately, it is an essential task to build a system that enables a wide range of people to acquire a certain level of counseling skills through short-term training. The people we envision participating are as follows: social workers and career consultants who are professionals in related fields, and in addition, other semi-professionals and non-professionals.

First, we will examine what kinds of responses arise from different professionals. The procedure is as follows: collaborating with external organizations that provide counselling services, we will utilize a role-play system. Using the log data of role-plays in which people in different professions take on the role of counselor, qualitative and textual analyses will be conducted to clarify differences in the counselors’ responses. Then, regarding the key points for fostering an effective response, multifaceted analyses will be conducted.

In addition, we aim to enhance counselors’ competence to respond flexibly to various clients, by clarifying the differences between intended and actual responses based on both the counselors’ and clients’ personalities and job types. These results will be shared with the collaborating organizations as appropriate, and will be used to improve the skills and training of the counselors.

This investigation will clarify the questions “what are the factors that make SNS counseling effective?” and “what is expertise in SNS counseling?” based on empirical data, providing evidence to build training programs for beginners and non-specialists which enhance their professional skills as SNS counselors.


2) Expected Effects
Verifying based on phenomena, not on theory like the traditional way, we will be able to discuss the professional response skills and clinical attitude of counselors without narrowing the possibilities of SNS counseling, a new form of counseling. This will not only contribute to the establishment of training systems for SNS counseling, but will also help to build healthy organizations by easing frictions that tend to occur between the chief counselor and others in the workplace. This study is also expected to deepen the discussion on respective expertise, since there are few previous studies examining the responses of people from different professions at the same time.

Furthermore, by improving the skills of counselors, the quality of SNS counseling will be also enhanced, and the outcomes will be shared with society as a whole. Thus, this project aims to solve the problems caused by the lack of skills of counselors, to propose a training program for highly specialized counselors, and to establish an SNS counseling system that can contribute to society sustainably.