Confessions of a Crisis Counselor: Five Perks of Volunteering

I applied to become a crisis counselor already well aware of the mental health benefits of volunteer work. With my teenage sons growing up, I also found myself at a time in life where I wanted to be sure to model volunteerism for them.  Still, I stalled. Why? I couldn’t find the right opportunity that was both exciting to me and would make a remarkable difference in the world.

As 2019 approached, I pledged to commit to a cause. Given my counseling degree and past experience working at a suicide hotline, mental health seemed like a natural starting point. I had never heard of Crisis Text Line, but when it surfaced during my search, I knew this was the one. I devoured every page and video on their site, then I applied.

Eight months later, I’m still so excited to give time as a Crisis Counselor and the experience has exceeded expectations. Crisis Text Line checks all the boxes: it gives me a sense of purpose, provides continuing education, connects me with a global network of fellow empathy warriors, and allows me to help others whenever, wherever. That’s not all—here are more unexpected reasons I love Crisis Counseling:

  1. It’s inspiring. I knew this can be heavy, heart-wrenching work. What surprised me is how I leave most shifts feeling optimistic, inspired by the strength and resilience I see in so many of our texters. They touch our lives just like we do theirs. That inspiration stays with me, positively influencing my outlook and choices.
  2. The training helps IRL, too. The skills we hone in our work—rapport building, empathy, active listening, identifying strengths, and collaborative problem solving—payoff in our personal relationships, as well. Being more attuned to their feelings has strengthened my bonds with my wife and sons.
  3. Every minute counts. Unlike past volunteer experiences, I never question my contribution at Crisis Text Line. Helping a texter create a safety plan or sort through difficult emotions leaves little doubt that I am making a real impact and changing lives. The anonymous post-conversation “texter feels” feedback we receive proves it.
  4. The support is unreal. The level of support Crisis Text Line provides its volunteers continues to astound. Whether it’s cheering you on ahead of your first day, supporting you while taking conversations on the platform, celebrating milestones, or debriefing after a difficult shift, the coaches, supervisors, and fellow crisis counselors have your back the entire way.
  5. I now have more to give. Compassion is one of our most powerful interventions as crisis counselors and it’s essential for meeting texters “where they are.” Practicing compassion for others has led me to foster more self-compassion, too, which research shows, boosts motivation, lowers stress, and fosters resilience.

The holiday season is all about giving. Pledge to #GiveTime this holiday season and join me as a crisis counselor.


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