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Training Materials for Hotlines and Helplines

The following materials have been designed to assist trainers as they prepare professionals and volunteers for crisis work. The focus is primarily for phone counseling although the materials may be easily adapted for face-to-face counseling. The underlying premise of many of these materials is to expand the empathic capacities of the person providing crisis intervention services. As we increase our abilities to understand, we increase our abilities to help the troubled people who turn to us for assistance.

We hope you will find these materials helpful and useful. Please let us know what works for you and what does not. If you have training materials you would like to share, please e-mail us at We want to hear from you and we will be happy to post your resources on our homepage.

Simply click on the title of the materials you are interested in.

AIDS and You: This is simple, explanatory piece that acquaints volunteers with the basics about AIDS. It is an effective handout for beginners and people who do not know a lot about the AIDS virus.

The Art of Communication: The various components of effective communication are discussed and described with emphasis placed on how the process affects good hotline work.

The Caller's Coping Styles: A discussion of anxiety and defenses designed to help crisis interventionists better understand the meaning of the behaviors they encounter in their daily work.

What is Crisis?: A description of the basic components of the crisis situation combined with tips and strategies for managing a crisis call.

Death and Dying: Based on the work of Kübler-Ross, an explanation of the stages through which the terminally ill pass is offered.

Loneliness, Depression, and Suicide: Explanations of depression are provided along with the common symptoms that characterize the disorder. Depression's linkage to suicidal behavior is explored and the management of suicidal callers is also discussed.

The Disturbed Caller: Dealing with highly disorganized or borderline callers is often confusing and perplexing to the hotline worker. An explanation of the meaning of disturbed behavior is provided as well as methods for dealing with them.

Role Plays -- General: A variety of scenarios for simulating calls is provided.

Grief Issues in the Psychotherapeutic Process: How does past and present grief, unresolved and unworked through grief impact the therapeutic process. This article is designed primarily for professionals who conduct psychotherapy but may also have usefulness for paraprofessionals working on hotlines and helplines.

The Special Nature of the Helping Relationship: (helping.htm) This article provides a series of exercises designed to acquaint trainees with the different styles of helping relationships. In particular, it highlights the differences between "friendly help" and the help offered by paraprofessional volunteers.

The Masturbator: Every hotline is faced with callers who use volunteers for sexual purposes. This article suggests different strategies for managing these types of callers.

Role Plays -- General: Additional scenarios on a variety of topics for simulated phone calls during training sessions.

Psychodrama: An introduction to the technique of psychodrama. Many different "dramas" are suggested and a "processing guide" for each suggestion is included.

What Makes Change so Difficult?: An introduction to the concept of resistance to change. It helps crisis workers to understand why self defeating behavior is so persistent and tenacious and provides strategies for confronting it with callers and clients.

Role Plays -- Depression and Suicide: Role plays specifically designed to illustrate the issues of depression and suicide.

Role Plays -- The Caller's Coping Styles: Role plays that illustrate particular coping and defensive styles in simulated phone calls.

Role Plays -- Sexual and Guilt Themes: Role plays that illustrate questions and concerns about sexual behavior, sexual orientation, and guilt.

Guidelines for the Selection of Hotline Volunteers: Selecting volunteers for hotline work is difficult. This guideline provides some basic parameters as well as specific suggestions as to how to gather the information needed during screening interview.

Exercises in Limited Self-Disclosure: A series of exercises is presented that help trainees to become more aware of the difficulties involved in self-disclosure. The exercises are designed to expand the empathic capacities of the helper for the caller.

A View of Supervision: An explanation of the clinical supervisory process designed to acquaint new and experienced volunteers with the nature and expectations of the process.

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