Troubles announcements and reasons for calling: Initial actions in opening sequences in calls to a national children's helpline

Emmison, Michael & Danby, Susan J. (2007) Troubles announcements and reasons for calling: Initial actions in opening sequences in calls to a national children's helpline. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 40(1), pp. 63-87.

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Calls to emergency assistance providers, and helplines more generally, have typically been analysed from the assumption that for both caller and call taker the primary orientation is the reason for the call. For the caller, this is one of seeking, and for the call taker that of attempting to provide, some particular specified help, assistance or advice. This paper draws on the opening sequences on calls to Kids Help Line, a national Australian helpline and counselling service for children and young persons aged between five and eighteen, to show this assumption as problematic for this service. The helpline operates from a child-centred organisational philosophy, 'we care - we listen', rather than 'we can solve your problems'. Unlike many helplines where an explicit offer of help is made in the call taker’s opening turn, the Kids Help Line counsellors provide only an organizational identification. The consequence of this design is that the onus is placed on the caller to account for the call, a process which typically involves the announcement or description of a trouble or problem and then, delivered separately, a specific reason for the call. In particular we identify one construction in which the caller formulates their reason for the call with a claim to the effect that they 'do not to know what to do'. Utterances such as this work, we argue, as sequence closing devices, a method by which the caller demonstrates the trouble has been adequately described and that they are now ready for counselling advice. We investigate the structural and sequential features of the opening turns which provide for the occurrence of this particular accounting work.

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25 citations in Scopus
18 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 14753
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Funders: ARC
Additional URLs:
Keywords: troubles announcements, helplines, Kids Help Line, children, counsellors, conversation analysis, opening sequences
DOI: 10.1080/08351810701331273
ISSN: 1532-7973
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Health Clinical and Counselling Psychology (170106)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIAL WORK (160700) > Counselling Welfare and Community Services (160702)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LINGUISTICS (200400) > Discourse and Pragmatics (200403)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Current > Schools > School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2007 Taylor and Francis
Copyright Statement: This is an electronic version of an article published in [Research on Language & Social Interaction 40(1):pp. 63-87]. [Research on Language & Social Interaction] is available online at informaworldTM with
Deposited On: 08 Sep 2008 00:00
Last Modified: 02 Oct 2014 01:31

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