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These roles have been designed to give trainees an experience with a wide variety of life circumstances and crises. They are excellent training vehicles to be used in phone work.

DIVORCE (female)

A 42 year old woman who has recently been divorced after a marriage of 22 years. Her husband had been her high school sweetheart; she had never dated anyone else. The relationship had been a very dependent one for her and that was one of the reasons her husband gave for wanting to end the marriage. There were no children. She now finds herself alone and having to look for a job. Her last job was when she was seventeen when she worked as a waitress in a fast food restaurant. She is frightened of her new status, of having to become financially independent since no alimony was awarded. She wants advice and direct suggestions and essentially attempts to set up a very dependent relationship with the liner (as she did with her husband). While not offensive, she is indeed demanding in a not unpleasant manner.


A graduate student in architecture living with another student, same sex comes home very drunk from a departmental party that they have both attended. Without quite knowing how, the two of them fall into a homosexual encounter. It has never happened before. Their relationship has been quite casual, each going his own way, doing his own thing. Since the encounter, they have not talked. Busy schedules, the end of the quarter all have contributed to their not having time. The incident is bothering the student who calls. He wants to discuss it but doesn't quite know how or what it all means. In a sense, he is calling the line as a rehearsal for the inevitable discussion with his roommate and because he is concerned about what, if anything, this encounter says about him.


A woman who has recently been diagnosed as having breast cancer is facing surgery to have her breast and the surrounding muscle tissue removed. The doctor has assured her that the cancer has been found early and that chances of complete recovery are quite good. While frightened about the surgery, death issues are really not her primary concern. She has always thought of herself as a feminist and while she has been concerned about her body in a health and fitness sense, she has down played physical attractiveness as something shallow and relatively unimportant. With the prospect of surgery, however, concerns about disfigurement, attractiveness, physical beauty, how she will look have become more and more a part of her worries. She is embarrassed by this, believing herself to be vain and superficial. Nevertheless, narcissistic worries keep intruding themselves into her everyday thinking and she calls because she doesn't know how to fit them into her self view.


A teenager whose best friend committed suicide just before they were both to graduate from high school calls because he has been very depressed. Graduation was no fun. He has lost interest in the things that usually keep him involved. He has been fighting with his steady girlfriend over petty things that he knows are not important. This is an open caller who does not reveal the suicide immediately because he does not associate his present symptoms to that event or to the fact that he is mourning. He talks readily but is psychologically naive. He wants help trying to understand why he is feeling so down and what he can do about it. When he eventually talks about the friend who suicided he is very tearful and guilty and moves into talking about what he might have done to prevent it, why he didn't recognize the signs, and guilt over surviving.

ILLNESS AND SEXUALITY (male or female)

Caller who has recently been diagnosed as having Herpes. The initial reaction is incredulity and disbelief which moves into anger. The caller has only had a sexual relationship with his/her steady partner and the assumption was that the partner was involved only with the caller. If this were so, where did the Herpes come from? Thus the caller is dealing not only with the fact that he/she has an incurable sexually transmitted disease but also with the fact that her/his partner may not have been as truthful in this relationship as was believed. The underlying issues is trust misplaced and a sense of betrayal. What effects will that have on the relationship? What is having herpes going to mean to this person?


A caller with a middle management job has recently been passed over for a promotion by a younger man. The caller sees himself as competent and able, having always done a good job. His job performance reviews while that rave reviews, have always confirmed that he is adequate at his job. This promotion had meant a good deal to him and he had assumed that he would get it. Being passed over came as a shock and he is still reacting to it. His emotions are shock, bewilderment, hurt, disappointment, and anger. He can't explain how it happened. He feels that his is his last opportunity because he is middle aged and his company is clearly advancing younger people. He likes his job but wonders if he should stay or move? Where can he go at his age? Should he talk to his boss? What can he do with his anger? His family is supportive but he feels that they are disappointed in him and hold him responsible for what happened although they're not saying that.

SEXUALITY (female)

A woman in her early 20s calls because she is concerned that she is not sexually responsive. She uses words like "frigid" to describe her lack of pleasure in the sexual act. While the impetus for her call is that her non-responsiveness reasserted itself a few nights ago with her recent boyfriend (their first sexual experience together) there have been several sexual relationships in her life dating back to when she was 17. None have given her any pleasure and she has just gone through the motions pretending to be passionately involved. She wonders if something is wrong with her? This is the kind of call that should end in a referral if handled well.


A 25 year old man who is a transsexual calls because he is nervous about the impending operation that will physically change him from a man to a woman. He is prepared to be very graphic about the surgery and to speak in great detail about his feelings of being a woman trapped in a man's body. For several years, he has been living as a woman; a requirement of the program he is involved in prior to having the surgery. He has also taken hormones which have reduced the growth of facial hairs, stimulated the development of breasts and made other bodily changes. He goes to work as a woman. The surgery is just two weeks away and for the first time in a long time, he is having second thoughts. His style is obsessional and he vacillates a great deal in the phone call. If the liner comes down even slightly on one side, the caller takes the other. An underlying question of "should I do it?" provides the leitmotif for the call.

RAPE (female)

A 25 year old woman who calls 3 days after she has been raped. This is the first time she has spoken of the event to anyone. She did not go to the hospital and she did not call the police. The rape occurred in her apartment; the rapist having gained entry while she was at work and was waiting for her when she came home. He held a butcher knife to her throat during the rape and threatened that if she told anyone, he would return and kill her. The woman is engaged and she is planning to be married this summer. Her affect is distant, as if she is talking about someone else, as if the event happened to someone else. The reality of the rape has still not impacted on her and it is for this reason that she calls. She is looking for something to trigger the emotions that are still being denied. If the call goes well, she gets to them and begins the process of working through. If the call does not go well, she remains distant and the feeling of "unrealness" continues.

CHILD ABUSE perpetrator's perspective (male)

A father calls because he is frightened that he may abuse his three year old daughter. When he comes home from work, he has responsibility for the child be cause his wife works from 3 to 11 as a nurse. He is generally tired and tends to have several beers as a way of winding down at the end of the day. The little girl is very active during this time and very demanding of his attention. He'd like her to just watch TV but she'd rather be engaged in some kind of activity with her dad. Bedtime is a real struggle; she wants no part of it. Last night he slapped her very hard which only exacerbated the situation. Fearing he would lose control completely, he left her in her bedroom to cry herself to sleep. He proceeded to drink very heavily and fall asleep himself. He sees the same thing happening again tonight and feels the rage beginning even before the daughter begins to act up. He doesn't want to hurt her but the loss of control he fears is a very real issue. He was abused by an alcoholic father in his own childhood.

BATTERING victim's perspective (female)

A woman of 33 calls. She is the mother of three children, the oldest is 13. She is clearly a battered wife and has been so from the beginning of her marriage some 14 years ago. At times, her husband's assaults have resulted in her needing to go to the hospital emergency room. Six months ago, he broke her arm and she is just recently out of a cast. Each time, he has promised to reform and seems genuinely sorry for what he's done. But his rages continue and he has never sought help in order to gain better self control. Her mother knows of the abuse but indicates that putting up with a husband's anger is a part of a wife's duty. She also reminds her daughter that he has always provided steady financial support for her and the three children and where would she be without that? In many ways, this woman has adjusted to her lot in life, making excuses for herself and for her husband. She is timid and frightened, trying to do all within her power to avoid her husband's murderous rages. She calls now because her 13 year old daughter's entrance into adolescence is making her the target for her husband's rages. Up until now, he has left the children alone but in the last two weeks he has begin to beat the daughter up. She is unwilling to have her daughter experience the same beatings as she has endured.


A man in his 70s who calls because his wife has developed Alzheimer's Diseases and is deteriorating severely. His story is really a description of the wife's symptomatology. Her short term memory is gone, she cannot find words to say what she means, she is suspicious and irritable, she refuses to wash and can wear the same clothes for weeks at a time, she wanders the house at night, becomes disoriented many times and can no longer do anything around the house. He is beginning to think that she is also losing bowel and bladder control. It has been a good marriage and the two have been very close especially since his retirement. His two sons live out of state and he has protected them from knowledge of their mother's decline. It is all becoming too much for him although that feeling fills him with a sense of guilt and failure. The woman he loved and has spent close to 50 years with is now a stranger to him; it is as if she died some time ago leaving only a specter of the woman he remembers. He is anguished by the change, overwhelmed by the responsibility, and devastated by what the future holds.


A mother calls because her 19 year old daughter has just announced her plans to marry a black man. Both her daughter and her fiance are in college (He is 21) and they both plan to continue their education. From all accounts, he is from a good family. His father is a physician and his mother a professor of chemistry at a community college. The mother is a housewife and her husband works in a factory; both stopped their education when they graduated from high school and married. The mother is bright and sensitive but also the product of a blue collar background in which racial prejudice was interwoven into the fabric of her life. She has managed to avoid her own racial prejudice by avoiding situations that would evoke it. Her community is lily white and all her friends are the same color as she is. While not unsympathetic to civil rights issues, they are not very important to her nor have they affected her life. Her daughter's decision is like a bolt out of the blue. A part of her blames her "new ideas" on her continued education; something that may not be altogether necessary for women anyway. While upset herself, she is also anticipating her husband's reaction which she predicts as disastrous. She loves her daughter and her husband, feels caught and protective of them both while simultaneously having to dealing with her own misgivings about this impending marriage.


A young man who is in the third year of medical school calls. In a laboratory accident at school, he has recently been blinded. All the specialists he has seen have made it clear that there is no hope for the return of his sight. No pressure has been placed upon him by the school, but he is feeling the need to reevaluate his whole life plan. He had planned to go into surgery upon the completion of his M.D., but that is clearly out of the question now. His friends have suggested that he could become a psychiatrist and he is aware that other blind students have pursued that specialization upon the attainment of their degree. Unfortunately, he has always loathed psychiatry, seeing it as medicine's weak sister and, in general, as a waste of time. It is not a real option for him. From the time he was a small boy, he has never thought about any career other than medicine. That was his life's goal and he pursued it assiduously. Now, what is he to do?

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