It comes as no surprise that teens feel more comfortable sharing their problems with other teens. They believe that other teens understand what they are going through and they trust that they will hold their problems in confidence. Arizona teens have been answering calls from other troubled teens on the Teen Lifeline Crisis Hotline since 1986. It is the only peer-to-peer crisis hotline in the state of Arizona and it is recognized by the American Association of Suicidology as a model for other peer counseling hotlines nationally.
The Crisis Hotline would not be possible without the Life Skills Development program. Every year 50+ teens ages 15 to 18 participate in the program and undergo the rigorous 72-hour Life Skills Training program to become Peer Counselors. Training is conducted 4 times a year with an average of 12-15 participants per training. Upon successful completion of the Life Skills program, these highly trained teens then volunteer to staff the free, confidential Hotline from 3pm to 9pm, 365 days a year.
Teen Lifeline not only is a safe place for teens to call in for help and resources, but is also a safe place for the volunteers. For many of the teen volunteers, Teen Lifeline becomes a home away from home. Many describe the experience as becoming part of a new expanded family. While a minimum of 15 hours of service a month is required, many of the teens far exceed that measure. Even more impressive is the fact that the average teen volunteers more than 3 years of service to the Crisis Hotline upon completion of the Life Skills program.
- Phase I of the Life Skills training focuses on teaching communication and listening skills; problem solving and decision-making skills; and self-esteem enhancement. This phase of training is fun and interactive using group activities to enhance learning. This phase utilizes current Peer Counselors to run small groups along with the Professional staff. Phase I is held on a Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This Phase of training is mandatory and cannot be made up.
- Future Peer Counselors are trained in hotline procedures and practice skills learned during Phase I. Phase II focuses on providing training around specific mental/social/behavioral health on six problem topics that are frequently seen on the hotline and require specific interventions. This phase utilizes current Peer Counselors to conduct role plays and provide feedback. This phase is held during five sessions that are scheduled from 3 to 9 p.m. over a period of five weeks.
- Peer Counselors in training attend a two day advanced information and practical use session that reviews specifically identified problem areas faced by teens. Local valley professionals who work with teens provide information on how best to meet the needs of the teen callers. This training phase is held on a Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Peer Counselors are asked to make a four month commitment to serve on the Hotline once training is completed. As part of this commitment, you must agree to work a minimum of 15 hours a month (approximately, two or three shifts per month.)
Registration packets to become a Peer Counselors and participate in training are available by completing a Volunteer Application Form or by contacting Mark Williamson, Youth Services Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 602-248-8337.