When Counseling Produces Counselors

As recovery progresses and healing evolves, it becomes clearer and clearer that survivors of abuse and trauma return from suffering in darkness with many attributes and coping skills that are needed in this abused and traumatized world. The same is true for family members and others affected by abuse, with emphasis placed on their need to walk through the full arc of the toughest recovery before seeking to help others.

What happens during healing is crucial. A hard-won wisdom and understanding develops. A compassion unique to those who endure the experience of abuse is refined. Often, these and other attributes are what make us particularly needed in helping others find relief and healing.

Have you considered becoming a crisis counselor? 

Henri Nouwen reminded those who have suffered that we return from the desert and the dark night of the soul best suited for helping others find their way out, too. And, for those who seek to help survivors of clergy abuse within the Church, learning the basics of crisis counseling and trauma becomes a skill many people need, including many people in our Church. 

Here is a run through of just four or many crisis counseling programs.

Polaris Project is an organization that works with the victims of human trafficking, both in the United States and around the world. Polaris operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline; it also runs a texting service, the BeFree Textline. Both services provide immediate counseling for sexual trafficking survivors and helps them to find the help they need. These services also help callers, who are not victims, know what to do about situations they report. Polaris hires people on a rolling basis to work as advocates on its Anti-Trafficking Hotline. Advocates are responsible for monitoring and responding to calls, texts, chat, online tips, and emails on the National Hotline. They also follow up on those signals and offer support. Their training can extend over a full year, including an apprenticeship.

Crisis Text Line operates a 24-hour help line for people in crisis, anywhere in the United States. (There are separate services for people in the UK and in Canada.) Crisis Text Line provides free training for people interested in volunteering on their help line. However, volunteers must agree to work a minimum of four hours per week until they’ve worked 200 hours. (This requirement normally takes about a year to complete.) Volunteer counselors with Crisis work from home, mainly at night, answering text messages from people in crisis and helping them through active listening, problem solving, and safety planning. Some volunteers go on to work full time for the Crisis Text Line.

The Office for the Victims of Crime Training & Technical Assistance Center runs a training program for new advocates and counselors. The training is primarily designed for people with some experience rather than absolute beginners. The two-day training teaches advocates about the impact of sexual assault and provides insight into techniques to support recovery, as well as procedures to follow in the most common situations. The training also includes modules about campus assault and male sexual assault. Training is quite extensive, including how-to practical crisis management as well as topics such as the impact of trauma on one’s neurobiology — something that affects how victims in crisis can take in information they need for help.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States. All sexual assault and abuse falls under the focus of this organization, which operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline, and partners with local sexual assault providers across the country. RAINN holds regular training sessions for volunteers interested in working on its National Sexual Assault Online Hotline. Volunteers must pass a criminal background check. They must also complete a two-day in-person training as well as a 20-hour online training. (Training is carried out in Washington, DC). Volunteers with RAINN commit to working at least 10 hours a month, for a minimum of 18 months.

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