Note: This was originally published in our Summer 2018 newsletter. View the print version online on our newsletter page.
In 2011, when The Crisis Center started answering chats in addition to the 24-hour Crisis Line, they talked to a couple people a day. Soon after, Contact USA started to organize chat services on a national level and The Crisis Center joined its network.
“We’ve been taking back-to-back chats ever since,” said Sara Knox, Training Coordinator.
Sara, a 2017 graduate of the University of Iowa’s Masters of Social Work program, played a major role in pioneering the program locally and across the nation. Now she’s sharing her knowledge online by developing the very first online crisis chat training program.
After a thorough application process, Skype interview, and background check, new chat volunteers receive log-in information for The Crisis Center’s online training platform. Learn- ing modules feature videos, guides, and quizzes.
Perhaps most interesting are the automated conversation simulators where trainees can choose their responses from a bank of answers and receive instant feedback about the messages they chose to send the person in crisis.
An online training program opens up a world of possibilities. Soon, The Crisis Center’s volunteers will not be limited to set training times or geographic limitations—they will train and volunteer from anywhere in Iowa.
This change also means more Iowans facing crisis will be able to get help. Nationally, only about 9 percent of chats sent are answered; the demand is much higher than the number of trained volunteers and staff available to respond.
Having volunteers across Iowa means that all Iowans will have someone to talk to when they need it most, whether they prefer to call or chat.
Developing an online training program is especially close to Sara’s heart because she grew up in a small Northwest Iowa town where she was bullied.
“I would have definitely used chat if it had existed or been available at the time,” she said.
The first online training class will commence this summer and volunteers will be ready to start responding to chats early this fall.
Start training to become a volunteer: