Press Release: Final dissemination conference for Erasmus + project DIS.CO highlights the important future for counselling at a distance

13 November, 2019 – On November 4th, the final dissemination conference for the DIS.CO project titled „Counselling at a distance – making psychological support services more accessible to all women experiencing gender-based violence“ took place in Vienna, Austria.

The conference was opened by Chairwoman from the Sub-Committee on Gender Equality for the Council of Europe, Petra Bayr, who discussed the importance of the Istanbul Convention where she stressed the fact that there is a need to recognize violence in the field of Human Rights and fundamental international values. She then focused on describing the counselling at a distance and its added values, recalling the successful experiences that experts are gaining in the health sector using this new tool. In fact, counselling at a distance allowed women that cannot have face-to-face counselling (because they live in remote areas, do not have freedom or possibility to move, do not have a clear residential rights, etc.) to receive help, and moreover to have immediate help.

Ms. Bayer’s opening of the conference was followed by project lead, Nicholas Spetsidis of Union of Women Associations of Heraklion Prefecture, presenting the DIS.CO project. He explained the funding scheme and the structure of the overall project and the 7 outcomes, describing the safety app and its functions.

Following a short coffee break, a panel was held consisting of DIS.CO partners Olga Themeli of Crete University, Maria Pentaraki of Queen’s University Belfast, Stavros Parlalis of Frederick University (Cyprus) and Iris Luarasi, Vice-President of GREVIO. The topics discussed included the main characteristics of the ideal distance counsellor, judging the eligibility of a client for counselling at a distance and data security.

Anastasiia Turusinova of University of Tartu presented the 5th intellectual output, the DIS.CO e-course. Ms. Turusinova explained how this tool could be used as an independent learning tool.

After a lunch break, participants returned to the venue to see the first ever demonstration of the DIS.CO app (IO6) by Meltini Fragkioudaki of Union of Women Associations of Heraklion Prefecture, which will be used by long distance counsellors to create safety plans for their clients.

Before the second coffee break of the day, the remaining outputs were individually presented by the work package leads. The needs assessment (O1) consisted of the development of tools to gather relevant information from women with experiences of abuse, professionals as well as relevant literature and was presented by Maria Penteraki of Queen’s University Belfast. The profile of counsellor „at a distance“ (IO2) is an anlaysis of the necessary competences for counselling at a distance so that the profile of such a counsellor working with women victims of domestic and sexual violence and abuse may be established. This was presented by Olga Themeli of University of Crete. Intellectual Output 3 (IO3) of the DIS.CO project – „Training Curriculum on Counselling at a Distance when working with women victims of Domestic or Sexual Violence or Abuse“ – was presented by Stavros Parlalis of Frederick University of Cyprus. Monica Moreno of M&M Profuture from Spain presented the 4th output of the project. The main aim of IO4 was the development of the Training Course Structure & Modules based on IO3. The course was designed as a 4-week (2-3 hours per day) in-depth training course, for professionals in the field of counselling. Though the last output of the project has not yet been published, Mari Puniste from the Estonian organization gave a short presentation on the 7th output of the project.

All conference participants received an USB stick with all DIS.CO outputs which have been published so far in all project languages.

The final hour of the conference was spent with participants in discussion groups, debating about the benefits which counselling at a distance could have for their region and organisation. The main points of each groups were then presented after which Nicholas Spetsidis and Lina Piskernik, conference moderator gave a final speech, ending the conference.

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Further information about the project:

DIS.CO is a two-year Erasmus+ project that aims at the development, piloting and dissemination of VET material regarding the enhancement of key competences of psycho-social Counselling practitioners in the field of Counselling women victims of violence through alternative digital means with the aim of providing alternative innovative services and building virtual workplaces. An exciting event has been planned which will include a lively panel of professionals as well as guest speaker Petra Bayr, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Gender Equality in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Lina Piskernik, Project Dissemination Coordinator: