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Hotline & Internet Chat Volunteers

Applications are now being accepted for our October 2014 class!

Classroom hours for the October 2014 class will take place as follows on Friday evenings and Saturdays:

  • October 24: 6pm – 9pm
  • October 25: 10am – 5pm
  • October 31st: 6pm – 9pm
  • November 1st: 10am – 5pm
  • November 7th: 6pm – 9pm
  • November 8th: 10am – 5pm

All applications are due by Sunday October 5th at 5pm. The following training class will start in January and will take place on Wednesday nights from 6pm – 9pm.

Please be patient as we process all submitted applications. We will contact you beginning in late September if we would like to interview you.

How to Apply:

Click here to fill out an online, form application.  (Preferred by SFSP staff!)

This will automatically send a completed form to [email protected], which is only checked when there is an active recruitment cycle.  For other questions, contact the Hotline Coordinator at [email protected]

You can also download a Word application or download a PDF application, then e-mail your application directly to [email protected].  If you prefer the hardcopy route, mail it to Courtney Brown, San Francisco Suicide Prevention Hotline Coordinator, P.O. Box 191350, San Francisco CA 94119.

If you choose to send by mail or e-mail, complete one of the following applications, and make sure to attach a resume.  We will not offer interviews to any candidates who have not attached a resume (it can be really outdated or haphazardly put together, we just need something!)

 About Becoming a Hotline/Chat Volunteer at San Francisco Suicide Prevention:

In order to provide the best service to our clients, there is a mandatory interviewing, reference-checking, and 56-hour training process for all incoming volunteers. Here is the typical time-line for volunteering at San Francisco Suicide Prevention:

  • Application accepted: 2-12 weeks before classes begin
  • Interview scheduled: 2-6 weeks before classes begin
  • References checked: Week following interview
  • Acceptance into training cohort: One week following interview, or after last (of 3) references are contacted.
  • One-on-one mentoring shift scheduled: First week of classes.
  • Classroom Instruction: 8-9 weeks.
    • For express classes, three weekends of classroom instruction followed by six weeks of 4-hour mentoring shifts.
    • For standard classes, eight weeks of Wednesday night classes from 6pm – 9pm, attended concurrently with 4-hour mentoring shifts.
  • Minimum volunteer commitment: One shift per week for the following 52 weeks, or 200 total hours of service. This immediately follows completion of training.  In addition, one shift volunteered on a holiday, and attendance of one continuing education seminar (hosted by SFSP).
  • Completion of minimum volunteer commitment: Minimum one four-hour shift per month to maintain volunteer status.

 Application:

All prospective volunteers must complete an application indicating their work/volunteer experience and relationship with suicide, along with an attached resume. We are looking for caring and reliable individuals who are willing to commit to emotionally challenging work for a year following training. Additionally, all candidates must be at least 20 years of age in order to volunteer.

SFSP receives many more applications per training cycle than we can accept or even interview. Qualities that increase the likelihood of receiving an interview offer are:

  • Long-term volunteer experience
  • Professional, volunteer, or personal experience with mental health issues
  • Comfort in discussing emotionally charged content
  • Demonstrated reliability
  • Multilingual abilities
  • Open availability, especially for early morning or weekend shifts

 Interview:

Volunteer candidates must attend an interview in order to determine aptitude for the training program and volunteer commitment. The exact SFSP location is kept confidential until an interview is offered, but it is in downtown San Francisco. Interviews are generally 20 – 40 minutes long, and focus on interpersonal skills and experience with suicide.

 References:

As mandated by our accrediting agencies, we require 3 references to be contacted per volunteer. 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.

 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 safer, supportive environment.

For the ‘express’ classes that take place on weekends, one-on-one mentoring takes place during the six weeks following classroom instruction. For standard Wednesday night classes, the mentoring ‘shift’ will be completed concurrently with class attendance. Scheduling for this shift is flexible, but will fall into the usual crisis line shift schedule, and is also dependent on mentor availability.

 Classroom Training:

Volunteers will be trained in many elements of crisis line work through the duration of classroom training. Training classes are composed of up to 18 students, and consist of a mixture of lecture, small group activities and call simulation.

The class takes place at the same place where interviews are offered and calls are received, in downtown San Francisco. There is a sixty-five dollar ($65) training fee, to be paid right before the first class in cash or check. New volunteers may miss up to one class per training cycle (3 hours maximum), and will still be required to make up the material during the following training cycle.

 Topics include:
  • Basic Counseling Skills
  • Suicide Assessment
  • Emergency Procedures & Mandated Reporting
  • HIV/AIDS Counseling
  • Online Emotional Support
  • Social Services Referrals
  • Grief Support
  • Challenging Call Scenarios

 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.

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.  Shift availability is dependent on holes within our current schedule, but is usually pretty flexible.  We do not offer shifts outside those times (ex: We do not offer at 6pm – 10pm shift.)  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, LGBTQ concerns, working with youth, domestic violence/sexual assault training, emergency services, and graduate school selection.

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.

*FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL HOPEFULS: SFSP will only write letters of recommendation for volunteers who have completed 200 hours of service. We love to write letters of rec for people, but we need to have an extended history with volunteers in order to best speak to their abilities.

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 senior volunteers must do at least one shift per month to stay active.

FAQ:

If I’ve completed a hotline training elsewhere, do I still have to go through SFSP’s training?

Yup!  Sorry, different suicide hotlines have different protocol, and we want to make sure we’re on the same page.  We’re sure there’s stuff that’ll be familiar, but a lot of things will be new, too!  That said, we’d love to hear your perspective on how things were different at your former agency, and maybe use your expertise to improve our own protocol.

Can I be trained specifically on chat or on the phones?

Nope, we need all of our volunteers to be trained on everything.  That said, certain shifts are more chat intensive, and certain shifts are more phone intensive.  You can select your shift based on these themes, but you will be expected to be able to take either.

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 6:30pm – 8:30pm.  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.