:)…thanks again for ur help. I feel better – Texter
Text Line Volunteer Description and Application
Thank you for your interest in applying for a Text Line Volunteer position with Crisis Support Services of Alameda County!
Below you will find (1) a brief description of the CSS Crisis Line and CSS Text Line Programs (2) a description of the volunteer position, and (3) an application form. If you have any other questions after reading the information here, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org
I guess I’m always seen as the strong one so not many people see I struggle too – Texter
Brief description of Crisis Line and Text Line Program
When Crisis Support Services of Alameda County (CSS) started taking crisis calls in 1966, skeptics said that support and suicide prevention could not be effective just via phone calls with community volunteers. That skepticism was proven wrong by CSS and many other crisis lines that have sprung up since. Eventually CSS became certified by the American Association of Suicidology, and now CSS responds to over 70,000 calls per year on our 24-hour telephone Crisis Line Program. Contacts with the Crisis Line Program and Text Line Program are free, and for anyone in Alameda County. We respect our callers’ and texters’ privacy and all crisis contacts are confidential.
In addition to the Crisis Line Program, CSS launched a Text Line Program in 2011 in order to reach more youth and young adults in Alameda County who choose not to call. The Text Line Program operates from 4pm – 11pm 7 days a week. The same skeptics who thought effective counseling would not be possible via phone calls could not have imagined that just as effective support arrives from community volunteers via text messages.
The Text Line Program engages in 500-700 text sessions a year with youth and young adults. During the sessions, texters will open up about feelings of stress, loneliness, depression, family conflict, suicide, and more. A Text Line Counselor might be the first person to help a texter sort out their feelings.
I didn’t know talking to someone could make my chest feel light again, thank u so much – Texter
Description of Text Line Volunteer Position
“Youth can text us on the fly. It feels like we can be with teens when they’re at their moment of most immediate need, far different from talk therapy or even phone counseling. It’s influenced my counseling style by making me become a lot better at giving people space to talk.” – Text Line Counselor
Why Volunteer? There are many reasons people volunteer at Crisis Support Services. Many people come because they want to do something meaningful in their spare time. Other volunteers are considering a career change into the mental health field, and want to dip their toes in while also building their resumes.
“It’s been a different way to offer help to an at-risk population and, in some ways, has allowed deep exploration that isn’t always achieved in phone calls.” –Text Line Counselor
Specifically for the Text Line Program, volunteers are interested in giving support via texting to teens and young adults. (The majority of calls in the Crisis Line Program are with adults.) Training for both the Crisis Line and Text Line is comprehensive and it is impossible not to grow personally while learning about mental health and suicide prevention in a supportive environment. All volunteer activities happen in the CSS office with other counselors, where people find support, comradery, fun, and learn from others. Because the Text Line Program sometimes has lulls in incoming texts, Text Line Volunteers can do homework or other projects for the Text Line Program during those times.
Training flow and time commitment: Text Line Volunteers attend classes during weekends, or a combination of weekend and evening trainings. Volunteers also attend training shifts in small groups, and one-on-one with a trainer. In addition to learning best practices in suicide prevention, Text Line Volunteers also receive training focused on youth and young adult issues. This includes bullying, depression, non-suicidal self-injury, coming out, and more. Instruction also includes 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.
“The text counseling technology allows us as counselors to really analyze how we did and adjust our techniques based on how well things worked. It is also a method that allows for counselors to cooperate with each other when working with a client.” – Text Line Counselor
Time commitment after graduating the training: We ask for a commitment of one weekly shift between 4:00pm and 11:00pm for a year, with a minimum of 52 shifts. Shifts can be as short as 4 hours or as long as 7 hours, depending on the volunteers’ desires and availability. Vacations and sick days can be worked around.*Of course, we love volunteers to stay longer than one year if they like!
Text Line Volunteer duties: While on shift, volunteers will work as part of a team and have the support of a shift supervisor and other counselors while they are taking texts. We use a software platform provided by Educational Message Services to engage with texters – this means we are on a computer and not exhausting our thumbs on a tiny screen! 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 take Crisis Line calls, they may want to consider applying for the Crisis Line Volunteer position: https://www.crisissupport.org/get-involved/volunteering/volunteer-faq/
Text Line Volunteer Qualities
I don’t know if you know this yet (you probably do), but you really change peoples’ lives – Texter
Personal Interest and baseline abilities: The ideal Text Line Volunteer will be someone interested in the youth and young adult populations, and the issues that affect them. A baseline ability to identify feelings in oneself and others, and to empathize, is important, and a deep respect and regard for people in all walks of life. There is no specific experience necessary as we will train the skills needed.
Openness to innovation, and continuous learning: 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: Supportive feedback is a built in part of volunteering for the Text Line Program and volunteers should expect it, and learn to be comfortable receiving and responding 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