Dear New Crisis Counselor...
This love letter to our new Crisis Counselors synthesizes 15 experienced volunteers' answer to the question: "What advice do you wish you had gotten when you started taking conversations with Crisis Text Line?" It will be shared with each new Crisis Counselor after their first conversation.
Dear new Crisis Counselor,
Congratulations on your first real conversation with a texter! Chances are you’ll never forget it. We’ve all been exactly where you are, and we remember how it feels.
We hope you know that you’ve been chosen to do something incredible. For your empathy, your desire to share it with others, and your ability to learn the necessary skills, you’ve been chosen to guide people through their darkest moments.
Each conversation is a real-life, breathing, hurting human on the other side of a text message, and, for the duration of that conversation, you might be the only lifeline they have. If that sounds like a lot of pressure, remember this: even if it feels like the conversation wasn’t enough, it's always better than the texter having no one to talk to. Just by being there and listening, you’re doing an incredible thing.
And yes, you are ready to do that. All it takes is the kindness you’ve always had, and the new skills you’ve learned. Stick to the basics from training, and you’ll find the texter opening up and sharing what’s on their mind or weighing heavy on their heart.
“Stick to the basics” doesn’t mean “stick to a script,” though. You’re a Crisis Counselor because we trust you. So trust yourself and your gut instincts. Ultimately, the texter needs to feel heard. Use your training as a foundation for providing them that experience.
You’re making your contribution to the positivity, compassion, and understanding that will add up until the texter reaches a tipping point of being ready to make change in their life.
Maybe you don’t feel like a natural just yet - that’s okay! To feel unsure of what you are doing right now is completely normal. These are skills that improve over time, and none of us are perfect. Asking for help means you are dedicated to continuing to learn and develop your skills.
The end of training isn’t the end of the learning experience. You’ll learn a lot doing this work: about the diverse experiences others are having, about supporting someone in need, and certainly about yourself. You’ll learn about your own capacity for compassion, and you’ll make a difference you never thought you could.
Some of you may be thinking, “But I want to do more.” We get that. We’re all the kind of person that wants to take away others’ pain; that’s what led us to this work in the first place. It can be frustrating to not have a magic wand we can wave to just “fix” whatever the texter is dealing with. That doesn’t mean you’re not making an impact. More often than not, we’re the first person that the texter is talking to about their struggle. You get to prove to them that it’s okay to talk about difficult feelings, opening a door that they never even knew was there.
There will be shifts where you’ll feel the difference you made: that “Thank you” or “You saved my life” from a texter will be an unbelievable feeling. Know that not every shift will feel that way, and that’s okay. Don’t let those shifts deter you. At the end of each shift, no matter how it felt, take some time for yourself. Even just five minutes to digest, reflect, and leave behind anything that lingers.
As you continue on this incredible journey, be gentle with yourself. Your fellow Crisis Counselors are supportive, welcoming, and can’t wait to meet you. We’re so glad you’re here.
See you on the platform.
3,600+ Crisis Text Line Crisis Counselors