Thank you for your interest in applying for a Text Line Volunteer position with Crisis Support Services of Alameda County (CSS). Enclosed are: (1) brief description of the CSS Crisis Line and CSS Text Line Programs, (2) description of the volunteer position, and (3) application form.
Brief description of Crisis Line and Text Line Program
Certified by the American Association of Suicidology, CSS responds to over 70,000 calls per year on our 24-hour telephone Crisis Line Program. In addition to the Crisis Line Program, the CSS Text Line Program operates from 4pm – 11pm 7 days a week and engages in approximately 500 text sessions a year with youth and young adults. Contacts with the Crisis Line Program and Text Line Program are free for anyone in Alameda County. We respect our callers’ and texters’ privacy and all crisis contacts are confidential.
When CSS started taking calls in 1966 skeptics said that support would not be effective via phone calls. That skepticism was proven wrong by CSS and many other crisis lines that have sprung up since. Those same skeptics would not have imagined that support could also come via disembodied words on a screen, like text. But in 2011 CSS launched its Text Line Program in order to reach more youth and young adults in Alameda County who do not call. We do not always hear feedback from texters, but sometimes we hear comments like, “I didn’t know talking to someone could make my chest feel light again, thank u so much.” For more information on how texters access the Text Line Program: http://www.crisissupport.org/programs/text-line/
In addition to crisis intervention and suicide prevention, CSS also provides direct service programs that include: The Grief Counseling Project, Senior Counseling Program, Teens for Life program, and a community education program. Please see: http://www.crisissupport.org/programs/
Description of Text Line Volunteer Position
Training flow and time commitment: During training, Text Line Volunteers attend several weekends of classroom training, training shifts in small groups, and one-on-one with a trainer. After graduating the training program we ask for a commitment of one weekly shift between 4:00pm and 11:00pm for a year, with a minimum of 52 shifts. Vacations and sick days can be worked around.*Of course, we love volunteers to stay longer if they like!
More on training: The Text Line Volunteer position includes extensive training on suicide prevention and youth and young adult issues, such as bullying, depression, non-suicidal self-injury, coming out, and more. Classes also explore active listening, motivational interviewing, and counselor self-care and self-awareness. Once trained there will be ongoing learning, including access to individual support and supervision.
Text Line Specialist duties: The volunteer will take incoming texts during their shifts, which are held on site. Shifts are from 4 to 7 hours between 4pm – 11pm. While on shift, volunteers will work as part of a team and have the support of a shift supervisor and other counselors. Ideally, fully trained Text Line Volunteers will also assist in training new volunteers.
When no texts are active: When no texts are active during a text shift, Text Line Volunteers can engage in the extra optional duties below, or they can work on their own personal projects (for instance homework, catching up on email, or watching cat videos).
Optional additional duties: Text Line Volunteers can assist with generating reports on text sessions, spreading the word about the service, researching youth issues for training purposes, and other projects as desired by the volunteer.
*If the applicant is 21 and interested in being trained to also take Crisis Line calls, rather than just texts, they may want to consider applying for the Crisis Line Volunteer position: http://www.crisissupport.org/get-involved/volunteering/volunteer-faq/
Text Line Volunteer Qualities
CSS is looking for Text Line Volunteers who are committed to personal growth, who can work independently and as part of a team; who are open to, and able to, apply critical feedback; and who are reliable and responsible. A baseline ability to identify feelings in oneself and others, and to empathize is important.
Personal Interest: Text Line Volunteers should have an interest in youth and young adult populations, and the issues that affect them. Volunteers should also have an interest in developing their ability to compassionately connect via text.
Openness to innovation, and continuous learning: The Text Line Program uses words on a screen to impart support and understanding, and to engage in suicide assessments and safety interventions. Texting is new within the field of suicide prevention, and we are constantly learning. Additionally, counseling via text can be harder than counseling via voice calls. Having a “beginner’s mind” is helpful to growing as a counselor even after training is done.
Feedback: Feedback is a built in part of volunteering for the Text Line Program and volunteers should expect it, and be able to receive and respond to it. Text Line Volunteers are also encouraged to give feedback on how their training is or any other aspects of their experience in the program.
Thank you again for your interest.
Karen Oberdorfer, LMFT, Text Line Coordinator
Sara Hood, MS, Crisis Line Training Coordinator