What I’ve Learned in NRS' Crisis Services Training So Far - National Runaway Safeline

National Runaway Safeline

What I’ve Learned in NRS’ Crisis Services Training So Far

What I Learned at NRS Crisis Services Training | NRS Board member Tom LawlerThere are also several ways to support the mission of National Runaway Safeline – be it your volunteer time, your financial contributions or donating your talents to help this organization advance its mission.

As a board member, I’ve been doing a bit of all three for the last three years as an NRS board member, but I recently decided to also be trained to be a crisis services volunteer in NRS’ crisis center (a “liner” is the official NRS lingo).

I decided to do this for three main reasons:

  1. I wanted to better connect myself to NRS’ mission
  2. I felt I had some extra time to give in this way (and admire my fellow NRS’ board members who are already doing this)
  3. I thought it would be a good learning and development opportunity

As a board member, I knew going into crisis services training that this is no commitment to take lightly (a total of about 40+ hours of classroom training time and sessions in the crisis center).

You’re strongly encouraged to complete all of this training within two months so you can start getting scheduled in the crisis center. So, that sounds like a pretty decent time commitment, right?

What I didn’t expect was how much I’d learn and benefit from just this crisis services training process. Here are just a few highlights so far:

  • Our volunteer base is extremely diverse: My training class included a retired schoolteacher who just relocated back to Chicago from New York City, several young professionals, a few older professionals like me, college students and even two high-school students. While the diverse life experiences we’ll all bring to the crisis center will no doubt help us best serve our at-risk youth population and their families, it’s also fascinating to think of one of our new high-school trainees taking a call from another youth of roughly their same age. Imagine the advantages of having this NRS’ Crisis Services Support training but still knowing exactly what it’s like to be a teenager.
  • NRS has an incredible trainer: The extremely knowledgeable yet relatable Sabrina Hampton has been a trainer at NRS since 2012. Previous to that, Sabrina provided training and crisis support services to organizations such as the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and the Center for Advancing Domestic Peace. In her spare time she enjoys her dog, riding her bike and also providing life-changing support to new mothers as a Bottom-line. Sabrina brought a lot of real-world experiences, knowledge and humor that not only made our training more impactful, but also made the experience of being in a training room with her for 40 hours or so much more enjoyable!
  • The Crisis Intervention Services model is the foundation of how we help the audience we serve: This five-step process is the foundation for providing support to the over 33,000 crisis connections made in 2016, the youth and adults who reached out to us last year by phone, online chat, forum or email:
    • Establish Rapport: Provide a safe, non-judgmental place for the youth or adult calling about a youth in crisis to explain their situation before you can share resources that may help them.
    • Explore Facts and Feelings: We spend the bulk of our time in this step – helping people describe what’s happening and how they’re feeling. Often it’s about helping them realize they are not alone and that they have a 24-7, confidential resource in NRS to help them through their crisis.
    • Focus on Main Issue: After you’ve worked through these two steps, you ask for the youth [or adult] to define the main issue they want to address. They are in charge of this process.
    • Explore Options: You then help them look at options. Again, since NRS’ services are non-directive, we may be of assistance in making them aware of options (i.e., shelter resources or some high-level legal information for their state), but they need to decide which option is best for them. Then, we always want them to have a back-up option if their first option isn’t successful. This is also not a bad way to plan a successful outcome in life, is it?
    • Establish Plan of Action: To finish a call or interaction, we want the youth [or adult] to feel confident about their plan and next steps. Ideally, they feel much better at the end of their interaction with NRS then when they first reached out. I can also tell you NRS will spend as much time with a youth [or adult] as necessary to get to this plan of action.

As I’m approaching the end of my training, that’s just a small portion of what I learned. As I come up for air again, I may also share some continued thoughts on my experience as an NRS liner as well.

For now, let me remind you how you can learn more about NRS, support us or get involved.

  1. Chicago residents: Email us to schedule a visit with NRS to meet this staff and see this crisis services center for yourself.
  2. Donate to NRS. Government funding meets just a portion of NRS’ modest administrative expenses – your donation (any size) makes a big difference!
  3. Volunteer at NRS. We always need volunteers and your schedule can be very flexible!

Tom Lawler
NRS Board Member (Since 2013)



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