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Hotline Volunteering



Click here to fill out an online, form application.

For other questions unrelated to the status of your application, contact Brad Chapin, Volunteer Coordinator, at [email protected].

Now accepting new applications!!



Minimum volunteer commitment: Immediately following the completion of training, you are required to take one shift per week for the following 52 weeks, or 200 total hours of service. In addition, one shift volunteered on a holiday, and attendance of one continuing education seminar (hosted by SFSP). After volunteering for one year or 200 hours, you are required to pick up at least 1 four hour shift per month to maintain volunteer status.

  • Must be 20 years or older. 

  • Must complete the application

  • We are looking for caring and reliable individuals who are willing to commit to emotionally challenging work. 

  • Open availability

  • Professional, volunteer, or personal experience with mental health issues


In order to provide the best service to our clients, we carefully review applications, conduct a phone screen and interview, complete a reference check (3 references checks), and background check. This process takes 30 days before the class begins. 

NOTE: These references may be friends, coworkers, significant others, supervisors, professors, fellow volunteers, etc. They may not be family members or therapists. The best people to list as references are people who have known the candidate for a long time, can speak to their ability to handle crisis situations, emotional stability, and reliability. Also essential is that the references are easily contacted by phone or by email)



The training program takes 7 weeks long which includes classroom training, homework, readings, and mentorship. You may miss a maximum of one class in the didactic training (the final class is mandatory). Classroom trainings occur on Saturday mornings. 

NOTE: There is an eighty dollar ($80) training fee, to be paid right before the first class in cash or check. New volunteers may miss up to one class, and will still be required to make up the material before taking calls on the line.

  •  Didactic Training: Classroom trainings will occur every Saturday from 10am-2pm over Zoom/In-Person. Classroom trainings will include assessments, lectures, role-play, discussions, and evaluations. Didactic trainings will also utilize our learning management system to provide makeup online learning, homework assignments, and tracking your overall progress. We covered various training topics such as Basic Counseling Skills, Suicide Risk Assessment, Cultural Humility, Drug/Relapse Training, HIV Nightline, Mental Health Overview, Advanced Challenging Calls, and Compassion Fatigue and Self Care Training. The total hours to complete will be over 32 hours. 

  • One-On-One Mentoring: Every new volunteer will be paired up with a senior volunteer or staff member in order to be mentored in crisis line skills. This four-hour weekly mentoring will be an opportunity to practice taking calls in a safe, supportive environment. Scheduling for this shift is flexible, but will fall into the usual crisis line shift schedule, and is also dependent on mentor availability.

 Minimum Volunteer Commitment:

In order to be accepted as a volunteer to SFSP, all candidates must sign a contract committing to a minimum of 52 weeks (at 4 hours per week) of service. If a candidate will not be able to commit to a year, we will accept individuals who can agree to complete more than 4 hours per week of service, as long as they commit to a minimum of 200 hours.  Active volunteering must be started as soon as training is completed, and all volunteer shifts take place in the call room at our main offices in downtown San Francisco.

Potential shift blocks are available at the same times seven days per week.  They include: 7am – 11am, 11am – 3pm, 3pm – 7pm, 7pm – 11pm, and 10pm – 2am.  People who would prefer to come in once every other week are welcome to do our overnights, which are 11pm – 7am.  Shift availability is dependent on holes within our current schedule but is usually pretty flexible.  We do not offer shifts outside those times. All volunteers must be willing to work within those hours.

All volunteers must also agree to volunteer on one holiday for four hours, and attend one continuing education seminar. SFSP continuing education seminars have covered topics such as cultural diversity, LGBTQI concerns, working with youth, domestic violence/sexual assault training, emergency services, and graduate school selection. It is mandatory to complete continuing education (minimum of 2 classes per year).

Volunteers are permitted and encouraged to take time off, but they must make up this time at another point. For every missed shift, a volunteer agrees to take an additional shift at another point. Available ‘make-up’ shifts are distributed weekly by the volunteer coordinator.


Graduate School Support: SFSP will only write letters of recommendation for volunteers who have completed 200 hours of service and have met all the requirements listed above. 

Following Completion of Minimum Volunteer Commitment: Due to the fulfilling nature of the work, most volunteers choose to continue at SFSP after their 200 hours of service. Either they will continue doing one shift per week or will decrease their commitment to once per month. All continuing volunteers must do at least one shift per month to stay active.

If I’ve completed a hotline training elsewhere, do I still have to go through SFSP’s training? Yes, different suicide hotlines have a different protocol, and we want to make sure we’re on the same page. 

What’s the difference between counseling as a volunteer and as an intern? It’s very similar, but interns participate in our clinical supervision group once a week on Thursday nights, from 6pm – 8pm.  This internship is reserved for individuals collecting hours for MFT licensure.  We have support groups and continuing education to provide guidance for volunteers who are not on their way to licensure but would still like additional clinical insight.

Can I take calls from home? Our calls are usually taken at our call room in downtown San Francisco, however, due to COVID-19 our volunteers are currently taking calls remotely. All volunteers are trained in protecting confidential client information, and staff can monitor calls for quality evaluation. SFSP is in the process of modifying the call room to maintain social distancing standards and working on guidelines to keep volunteers and staff safe.