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Save the date: National Crisis Centers Conference registration now open

iCarol Webinars

We’re excited to announce, on behalf of our friends at the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors (NASCOD) and Contact USA, that registration for the 2017 National Crisis Centers Conference is now open!

The conference will take place from October 18th through 20th in beautiful Buffalo, NY. The event kicks off with a tour of world-renowned Niagara Falls and a welcome dinner Wednesday evening, and concludes with a closing banquet on Friday evening. In between kickoff and closing will be tons of educational and enlightening workshops and sessions aimed at enriching your staff and improving your ability to serve your community. To make sure you don’t miss out on any of the fun, the conference organizers encourage you to schedule your departure for no earlier than Saturday morning.

If you are a manager or director of any sort of crisis, supportive listening, counseling, or suicide prevention helpline or similar service, then we strongly encourage you to attend this conference. We have personally been attending for a number of years — in fact it was the very first event we began attending when iCarol was created so many years ago! Over the years we’ve developed treasured relationships with the organizations that organize and attend the conference, and we deeply value their service to their communities as well as their committment to increasing the impact of crisis centers everywhere. The workshops and sessions presented at this conference each year are NOT to be missed!

But you don’t have to take our word for it. According to the conference website, the event promises:

  • To enhance your Vision and Leadership skills to aid your success
  • Workshops that focus on management and leadership skills that will cultivate your effectiveness as a program Director/Manager
  • National networking opportunities available with experts in the crisis center field
  • Information on specific issues and challenges that you are facing as a Director/Manager

For more information, or to register you and your staff, head over to the conference website. We hope to see you in Buffalo this October!

National Crisis Centers Conference 2017

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iCarol Webinar: Introduction to Assisting LGBTQ Help Seekers

lgbt pride month gay lesbian bisexual transgender

On June 20th at 1pm EST iCarol will host a webinar with Dustin MacDonald of Distress Centre Durham, aimed at providing helplines and other non-profit organizations with helpful information and insight on best practices for serving the LGBTQ community.

Dustin will discuss a range of topics including:

  • Suicide ideation and suicide rates among LGBTQ individuals
  • Common issues and topics to be aware of
  • How to best provide emotional support to LGBTQ individuals
  • And much more!

We hope you’ll join us for this special event in celebration of Pride Month. You can learn more about this webinar and register by clicking the button below.

Learn More and Register

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iCarol to attend the American Association of Suicidology Conference

On the Horizon- Upcoming t copy

From April 26th through the 29th, members of our team will be in Phoenix for the 50th American Association of Suicidology Conference.

We’ll have a booth at the conference and you’ll see us at many of the events and sessions, too. It’s important to us to learn about and be aware of all the latest research and the expanding needs of helplines as they work to build suicide-safer communities.

We hope you’ll stop by our booth and let us know how things have been going for your organization, and tell us about the exciting initatives you’ve had going on. We’ll be available to answer any questions you may have about iCarol, and we’ll have some fun activities to check out that are brand new this year!

In particular we’d really enjoy hearing your feedback about the new iCarol Ideas Portal we recently released. We’re excited to hear from our users about how it’s going, what you like about it, and any other feedback you may have. So if you’ve used the Ideas Portal, we definitely want to see you!

With all the excitment and so much going on, the time at the conference goes by quickly, so please look us up at the conference, or beforehand to schedule some time to chat so we’re sure not to miss the opportunity to see you!

We look forward to seeing you and learning about all the latest in the life-saving work being done by the helpline industry so that we can continue to build our systems to support you.

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Self-service Tools: The new age of helpline service

Web page

My former employer’s Executive Director used to always say that as long as people still used phones, our crisis lines would answer them, but if people used ESP to communicate, well, we’d use that too. While most humans haven’t yet figured out a way to use ESP for communication, our society is using different forms of communication and even non-communication to get information, assistance, and support.

Text and chat communication has grown exponentially across most age ranges within the past five years. On top of that, a growing trend has also arisen with the internet: self-service tools. There is a big opportunity for helplines of all kinds to use self-service tools to promote their services and increase partnership agreements.

Because we here at iCarol are committed to providing helplines and others the tools they need to reach people across multiple platforms, we created Online Forms. With Online Forms, website visitors can submit information which comes into your iCarol system as a completed report form. Since the forms are essentially a public facing version of an iCarol report form, you can view, edit, and report on the form in the same way as all of your other report forms.

Several possible applications exist for using iCarol’s Online Forms. Let’s explore two use cases:

Assessment and Program Intake

Elmdale Crisis Center (a fictitious organization) operates numerous crisis lines through various contracts with mental health authorities, public and private health providers, and local municipalities. Elmdale’s management team is looking at ways to increase contract amounts by providing additional services without adding too much burden on their staff. After reviewing their current service offerings, they found a few contract required assessments that could be offered through an additional avenue, Online Forms.

They designed the following workflow:

online form workflow

With this workflow, Elmdale Crisis Center can extend the service offerings of the contract with the goal of increasing the number of people who request an assessment and intake into the service provider’s programs.

Consumer Satisfaction Survey

Elmdale Crisis Center’s management team wants to capture a consumer’s satisfaction and risk levels after using their crisis services so that they can report on outcome achievements and demonstrate their social return on investment, necessary for future funding requests. They decided to use iCarol’s Online Forms so that the consumer’s responses and information comes into their system automatically and their front line staff is notified if the person submitting the form would like additional follow-up.

Elmdale placed the consumer satisfaction survey on their website and created an iCarol resource record containing the online survey link, so that their consumers can receive the link directly via a texted or emailed referral from the iCarol system. They instructed their workers to provide the survey link to consumers at the end of their conversations.

The management team designed the following online survey:

Pre-screening question – if answered “no”, visitor cannot complete the survey.

    1. Have you contacted Elmdale’s crisis services? Yes/No

    Survey Questions

    1. When did you last contact Elmdale’s crisis line?
  • Today
  • Yesterday
  • This week
  • Last week
  • Earlier this month
  • Last month
  • Longer than two months ago

  • 2. How did you contact Elmdale?
  • Call
  • Text
  • Chat
  • Other, please specify

  • 3. On a scale of 1-10, how upset were you at the beginning of your conversation with an Elmdale crisis worker?
  • 1-10 Scale

  • 4. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the level of empathy and understanding the Elmdale crisis worker demonstrated during your conversation?
  • 1-10 Scale

  • 5. One a scale of 1-10, how upset were you at the end of your conversation with an Elmdale crisis worker?
  • 1-10 Scale

  • 6. Will you contact Elmdale’s crisis services again?
  • Yes, definitely
  • Yes, possibly
  • No, probably not
  • No, definitely not

  • 7. Would you recommend Elmdale’s crisis services to a friend or family?
  • Yes, definitely
  • Yes, possibly
  • No, probably not
  • No, definitely not

  • 8. Would you like an Elmdale crisis worker to contact you regarding this survey?
  • No
  • Yes +
  • + Contact Information
    First Name ________________
    Phone Number __ (____) ___________
    Best time of day to call _______________

The versatility of iCarol’s Online Forms opens up entirely new methods for those in need to contact you. Using Online Forms provides additional opportunities to increase and improve service offerings, which can translate into more funding to support your helpline.

Do you have other ideas about how Online Forms can be used? Leave a comment below. Want to discuss some of these ideas with an iCarol staff member? Contact us.

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Five Tips for Working With Callers or Chat Visitors Who Have an Intellectual/Developmental Disability

Vols-Staff

Guest blogger Brenda Patterson is the Executive Director of CONTACT the Crisis Line in Jackson, Mississippi, and serves on the Board of Directors for CONTACT USA.

With all callers/chat visitors we practice active listening and unconditional acceptance. We try to use open ended questions when facilitating conversations and summarize the caller/chat visitor’s plan as we close the conversation. When talking to an individual with an intellectual/developmental disability there can be additional considerations. Let’s look at five:

  • Person first language is a topic all by itself. Whether or not you know at the beginning of a call or chat if the individual has a disability using person first language in any conversation is important. Person first language emphasizes the person, not the disability. By placing the person first, the disability is no longer primary, but one of several aspects of the whole person. Examples include: “person with an intellectual disability,” “person who has autism,” “person who is blind,” rather than “the mentally retarded,” “the autistic,” or “the blind.” Also consider how you refer to their challenge and devices that help them adapt. Using phrases such as “person with an addiction/mental health concern” “one who uses a wheelchair” instead of “mental patient,” “drunk,” “druggie,” “invalid,” or “wheelchair bound” is preferable.

  • Consider that people with intellectual/developmental disabilities often share the following thought processes:

      - Difficulty with fluidity and flexibility of thinking

      - A dislike of ambiguity (black and white thinking)

      - Difficulty prioritizing and breaking down tasks into manageable projects

      - A tendency for poor generalization skills (a person belongs in one and only one
      environment and utilization of a skill in one situation but not others)

  • Recognize that individuals with an intellectual/developmental disability may think logically about concrete events, but have difficulty understanding abstract or hypothetical concepts. The use concrete examples when facilitating problem solving is helpful.

  • It’s important to dispel the myth that people with intellectual/developmental disabilities cannot benefit from therapy. In reality many different types of therapy have been found to be effective in treating people with developmental disabilities. Do not hesitate to mention therapy as an option. Although it generally takes longer for people with developmental challenges to make changes, those changes are stable once made.

  • Because there are higher incidents of abuse in people with any disability, the likelihood of trauma related symptoms occurring are greatly increased, which can be mistakenly attributed to the person’s developmental disability or pre-existing mental illness. Trauma responses generally represent a change from the person’s normal level of functioning.

While there are a number of additional tips to consider when talking to an individual with an intellectual/developmental disability, and there are tips which are specific to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder these are primary and apply to all individuals with a developmental disability.

With all callers we want to empower them to advocate for themselves and to generate their own solutions, as well as connecting them with services that can further assist them. Whether you are talking to the individual with an intellectual/developmental disability or their family, it’s important to ask if they are receiving Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) as provided in the state they live in. HCBS provide opportunities for Medicaid beneficiaries to receive services in their own home and community. While waiting lists can be long, the services provided are invaluable and making application early in the individual’s life is important. It can mean they will have the support they need to be independent in adulthood and be happy and content in the life choices they have made.

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Familiar Callers: Changing Our Views and Interactions

Calls

Crisis Hotlines have been around for over 40 years, and so have individuals that call regularly. These types of repeat calls are often referred to as exhausting, challenging and frustrating. Viewing these calls as such can introduce the danger that someone in actual need may not receive the full benefit of the services offered. Though the caller may not be presenting a crisis at the moment, your support and empathic listening can aid in the prevention of escalating into a crisis. Often times, the callers are utilizing the same unsuccessful maladaptive coping skills to try to resolve their situation. They have most likely burned many bridges, have very little or no support from family and friends, and feel lonely and isolated. They are often turned away and told no or that nothing more can be done. It is important to remember that these callers can also experience crises.

As many centers are adopting a trauma informed care approach, the use of recovery oriented language and care is emerging. The term Frequent or Chronic caller is being replaced with Familiar or Experienced caller, to name a few.

Some centers or crisis workers struggle with setting limits and boundaries. Callers can benefit from the structure and learn to develop and rely on their own strengths. The callers are the experts on what helps them and it varies for every person.

Challenge yourself and your center to create a thoughtful approach to handling these calls, while maintaining boundaries, consistency, and setting limitations. Establish firm and consistent boundaries in a respectful manner. Some centers have time limits per call, others have limits on how many times an individual can call. Once you decide on a limit, it is important for all crisis workers to remain consistent. Create a clear guideline for crisis workers to follow. Example below:

    Initial call of the day:
  • Listen, reflect feelings
  • Don’t dictate
  • De-escalate

  • Subsequent calls:
  • What has changed since your last call?
  • What was your plan when your last call ended? Have you tried…?
  • Have you followed through with your plan?
  • What else can you try?

  • When speaking with someone who has been contacting your center several times per day, it is okay to ask the individual:
  • To restate their crisis plan
  • Who else can they call besides the crisis hotline?

Be cautious of providing the same intervention techniques each time, it can be beneficial to treat each call like a brand new call every time. Perhaps something has changed and what didn’t work yesterday may work today. Remember there is value in listening and acknowledging their reality. Consider what it must feel like to live with this every day.

Thoughtful Suggestions:

    1. Help the individual identify the precipitating event that caused them to call/chat/text. “What has happened/changed since your last call?”
    2. Help the individual prioritize and stay focused. Acknowledge that it seems there has been a lot that has affected their lives. “I’m wondering, which situation is most important for you to resolve.” “What can I help you with today?” “From what you have shared, there seems to be a lot going on for you. Which one is the most worrisome for you today?”
    3. It is better to interact than react. Validate that they are doing the best they can. “It sounds like you are doing the best you can. What can you try differently to cope with this?”
    4. Identify coping skills. “What has helped you in the past? Have you tried that today?”
    5. Help them explore new, healthy coping skills. “I’m wondering if you have thought of new ways of coping.”
    6. Explore the importance of retelling their story repeatedly, “How is this helpful for you?” “What are you hoping to get from this conversation today?”
    7. Empower them to work toward recovery.
    8. Limit exploration of the situation and problem solving.
    9. Help the caller focus on what he/she can do to help him or herself today.
    10. Support the caller in developing a reasonable, specific and attainable plan. Provide additional resources, such as a warm line for support.

Other helpful statements:

    “You really seem comfortable doing what you have always done, that’s more familiar to you. How would it be for you to try…”
    “It sounds like you feel scared to make any changes.”
    “It sounds like you have a sense of what it is going to take to change and you’re not sure you want to do that.”
    “It seems discussing your past experiences are more comfortable for you than trying to make changes.”

For research on Familiar callers, please use link below for information:

Guest blogger Lisa Turbeville is Manager of the Resource and Crisis Helpline and Legal Services at Common Ground, and serves on the Board of Directors for CONTACT USA.

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Upcoming webinars via Mental Health America

Webinars

Mental Health America is participating in several free webinars this month.

Peer Supports for Transition-Aged Youth
Date: Wednesday April 6, 2016
Time: 2pm EDT
Transition-Aged Youth(TAY), including foster youth, youth who have been through the juvenile justice system, and youth with mental health diagnoses, have unique needs that are often unaddressed. At this crucial stage . . . Read more and register

Peer-Run Respite Programs
Date: Thursday, April 14, 2016
Time: 2pm EDT
Peer-Run Respite Programs serve as successful alternatives to hospitalization or other traditional crisis services with focuses on support, hope, and . . . Read more and register

Best Practices in the Use of Self-Directed Care to Support Recovery in Women
Date: Thursday, April 21, 2016
Time: 2pm EDT
Building relationships and support systems is an important part of recovery. Mental Health America’s highly innovative It’s My Life: Social Self-Directed Care program combined . . . Read more and register

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Adjusting the shift schedule during absences or vacations

Shifts

During spring break and other common vacation periods, staff and volunteers may need to adjust the time they serve at your agency. You want to ensure that your calendar is up-to-date with all changes and the following iCarol features are there to assist.

Unregister from a shift

If a volunteer or staff member has already signed up for or been assigned to a shift, but realizes that they cannot serve the shift, they can un-register from the shift. To do so, the volunteer or staff member will use the shifts area of iCarol to navigate to the day of their shift, and will click on their name in the list of shifts. A pink box will appear to the right, and in that box, there is an “Unregister” button which they should click.

Unregister

Clicking this button will remove the person’s name from the shift, and it will revert to an “Open” shift so someone else can sign up for it.

Shift Substitution

This feature is similar to the “Unregister a shift” feature, but goes an extra step and facilitates the coverage for shift assignment changes. If a volunteer or staff member has already signed up for or been assigned to a shift, but realizes that they cannot serve the shift, they can ask for a substitution. To do so, the volunteer or staff member will use the shifts area of iCarol to navigate to the day of their shift, and will click on their name in the list of shifts. A pink box will appear to the right, and in that box, there is an “Ask for Substitution” button which they should click.

Unregister

Clicking this button will send an email to all users indicating that the volunteer or staff person is looking for a substitute, and will highlight the shift in yellow so it is easily spotted. If someone would like to substitute, they would navigate to this shift in the Shifts area of iCarol, and click the Accept button.

Shift substitution

Whether or not you allow un-registration or shift substitutions, and how soon before the start of a shift a person can unregister or ask for a substitution, are settings Admin’s can control via the Shifts tab in Admin Tools.

Exceptions to Repeating Assignments

If you have members that are assigned to the same shift over a period of time, the repeating assignment is a great tool to use. This tool allows you to collectively schedule those repeating assignments and it also handles exceptions, such as to remove the person from the shift during a particular time span when they will be on vacation. To do so, use the shifts area of iCarol to navigate to the first shift within a repeating shift assignment that they would like to unregister for and click on their name. A pink box will appear to the right, and in that box, there is a link labelled “Repeating assignment” which they should click.

Exceptions to repeat assignments

This will cause the following box to pop-up:

Repeating Assignment Tool

Firstly, the volunteer or staff person should click the radio button next to “Remove”. Next, using the drop-down boxes, they should indicate what time frame (every, every other, each month’s first, etc.) and what day of the week they would like to be removed from. The date next to “between” will be defaulted to the date of the shift the volunteer or staff person is adjusting. The volunteer or staff person should adjust the date next to “and”, or check the box next to “no end date” to remove themselves from every shift into the future. Finally, they should click the “Make these changes” button.

If you have any questions about these tools, please do not hesitate to submit a case to the support team via the online case management tool, found in the Help menu in iCarol.

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Creating a Successful Volunteer Training Program

Vols-Staff

When it comes to training our helpline volunteers we all seek the same result: success. How we achieve that success varies amongst centers. How can you improve your training while balancing the needs and limitations of your agency? Here are some key factors to consider when creating or transforming your training.

Selecting Prospective Volunteers

Volunteer selection is an important part of the process in order to determine if a prospective volunteer can be an effective crisis interventionist and is the right fit for your agency. Volunteer selection can be done individually or in a group setting. Identify the appropriate person/s to provide this, such as staff and/or current volunteers. Just because someone wants to volunteer on a crisis line, doesn’t always mean that they should. Protecting your agency, those we serve and the volunteer are all critical pieces to keep in mind. Identify individuals you feel believe in and can carry out your mission, possess the qualities and skills you find important and are trainable.

Facilitator

Choosing the right facilitator/s to provide the training is important. The facilitator/s should preferably have experience in crisis intervention, teaching, a strong knowledge of the material and familiarity with how the crisis room operates. You may want to consider offering opportunities to current volunteers to co-facilitate sessions.

Other important skills you may want to consider when selecting a facilitator:

  • Ability to adapt and utilize different teaching and learning styles/techniques
  • Ability to provide meaningful feedback
  • Ability to identify individuals that need to discontinue the training
  • Ability to debrief individuals, training can be intense and trigger individuals
  • Possesses keen observation skills
  • Professional, organized, punctual, represents the agency well
  • Actively engages well with others
  • Has a good sense of humor

Duration and Schedule

How long should training be? The duration of your training should reflect the amount of time needed to properly teach and prepare individuals. It may be tempting or more convenient to provide a shorter training, but that may not always be in your best interest. There are advantages to offering shorter and longer trainings. Shorter trainings may attract more volunteers because it is less of a time investment and they produce volunteers that are ready to take calls sooner. Longer trainings can provide more time to teach and develop volunteers and give you the opportunity to get to know each of them better. Invest the time; you are only as good as your training.

Give thought to the amount of time between trainings, to give your volunteers and instructor time to process what has been taught and keep them rejuvenated. Allowing a few days between training classes can be beneficial. As you are scheduling your training keep the calendar in mind, you may want to avoid scheduling your training too close to any holidays.

Environment

Make sure the training environment is comfortable. Important features may include:

  • Comfortable temperature
  • Comfortable chairs
  • Good lighting
  • Enough space
  • Windows
  • Easily accessible bathrooms

Training Methods

Remember to cater to different learning styles and don’t be afraid to experiment. More agencies are offering courses on line, which can be convenient but may exclude those that are not computer savvy. However, don’t forget to offer some traditional courses in person because human contact is invaluable.

Role/Real Plays

Asking volunteers to practice using their own past resolved crises instead of made up scenarios can be really beneficial. It offers them the opportunity to bond with the other trainees, see firsthand how the crisis intervention works and most importantly, demonstrates how hard it can be to be vulnerable and how brave our callers are to share their stories with us.

Additional Tips

  • Debrief your volunteers after every session
  • Provide a balance of exercise, didactic and skill practice
  • Ask volunteers to observe the crisis room and calls
  • Provide opportunities for continuing education
  • Send volunteers to workshops and conferences
  • Keep the training and topics up to date
  • Get their feedback and make changes accordingly
  • Prepare them, but most importantly have fun

Graduation

Once the volunteers complete the training, don’t forget to honor them with a graduation celebration. Certificates, awards, cake and small gifts are some nice ways to honor the graduates. You may also want to consider hosting a graduation party that includes crisis line workers and other agency staff, including the CEO.

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