Volunteer Helpline Worker

Skills, Attitude & Knowledge

  • Must be 18 years of age and over. Individuals 17 years old must have peer counselling experience
  • Must be caring, non-judgmental and a good listener
  • Must be able to keep accurate and complete written records of calls
  • Must be willing to undergo initial screening procedures, basic training program and on-going training


  • Speak to distressed callers – utilize active listening, crisis and suicide risk assessment tools and intervention techniques and refer, according to Distress Centre training
  • Keep written records and reports on all incoming and/or outgoing call and write recommendations to supervisor
  • Attend Basic Training, Advanced Training, Team Meetings and In-service workshops to update skills and to remain current on all new and relevant techniques, services etc.
  • Maintain accurate track of and log all volunteer hours contributed
  • Adhere to all the policies and procedures of Distress Centre Durham


  • Basic Training focuses on effective communication, active listening skills (empathy, clarification/paraphrasing, open-ended questions, building confidence, referral/resource info if appropriate, etc.) crisis and suicide risk assessment, theory & techniques in intervention and prevention
  • With a focus on the unique needs of adult learners, the training workshops are delivered using a variety of techniques including training tapes, manuals, group discussion and role-plays
  • Orientation (includes a tour of the call centre, computer training, introduction to the community resources and referrals database and policy review)
  • Advanced Training will enhance active listening and crisis de-escalation skills and offer instruction in stress management techniques
  • In-service Training deal with relevant topics of interest to the helpline workers. Attendance is mandatory at 1 per year.

Time Commitment

  • Our volunteer commitment is flexible. For the first year, volunteers will complete 16 hours a month (with 8 of those hours between the hours of 10:00 pm – 6:00 am). After this 200 hours/one-year commitment, the minimum can be reduced to as little as 4 hours a month with no overnight requirement. Volunteers have the opportunity to sign up for their shifts based on their unique schedule.


  • Interpersonal communication, and risk assessment skills which will be of benefit in both personal and professional relationships
  • A verification letter upon fulfillment of the Volunteer Contract
  • Computer training and an opportunity to work on a data collection and word processing software program
  • An opportunity to transition into other volunteer positions with various Distress Centre Durham services
  • Opportunities to build and develop skills relevant to Human and Social Service Work


  • Reports to the Director of Volunteer Coordinator