Today, my supervisor told me that I was ready to make my first call. Honestly, the first thought that ran through my head was an inarticulate, panicked “woah, not ready.” Then, my second thought was that I had to start somewhere and I would be starting with a lot of oversight.
Usually, when a Telephone Counselor contacts a caller, she can offer the person information in the same call. Then she talks to her supervisor to check the completeness and accuracy of her counseling. When a Counselor-in-Training makes her first calls, she talks to the caller first and then does not offer any information without first verifying it with her supervisor. That is what I did today.
The issues raised by my callers today ranged from custody to divorce to domestic violence. The problems my callers faced were fairly typical of the majority of those who call into the WLP. However, this made them no less hard to listen to.
My initial worry about counseling had been about the information I could provide. My apprehension was that what was I, as a young college student, doing offering advice to mature women who were dealing with some issues that I have been privileged enough to have never encountered? This fear was soon, mostly, alleviated. After perusing the vast manuals the WLP has written, listening in on other calls, and talking to my supervisor, I quickly began to get the hang of what kind of information to offer each caller. The Telephone Counselors provide callers information drawn from the years of experience among the staff members at the WLP; the individual counselor has access to a much greater body of information than their own personal knowledge.
The hardest part, I soon came to realize, was the emotional aspect of the calls. The callers ranged from angry to upset to resigned. Some of the callers thanked me profusely at the end of the call for giving them information. Whilst I am very glad that they felt more empowered by their new knowledge, I also felt a little guilty for not being able to offer them the “right answer” to their problems. All I could offer them were potential options; sometimes none of them were particularly good.
This training process has opened my eyes so much, and the learning curve has been huge. I think it will continue to be hard, but hopefully my callers will benefit from the information the WLP can offer them.