Training to become a listening volunteer for the Samaritans takes around six months and the great thing about it is you learn skills that will help you in all aspects of your life – e.g. parenting, friendships and work life.
It starts with a recruitment day where we give you a real flavour of what being a Samaritan is all about to see if it is for you.
We then proceed to six days of highly interactive skills based training.
At Horsham and Crawley Samaritans, we do this over six consecutive Sundays starting in February and then again in September.
This part of the training covers all the skills we use in our calls, emails, texts and face-to-face contacts.
At the heart of it is active listening with empathy. Our volunteers need to be able to listen in a way that few people experience, a way that makes callers feel completely safe to talk about what’s troubling them, and that they’re not alone with their problems no matter how bad things seem.
After skills training, trainees are paired up with an experienced listening volunteer who acts as a mentor during their early shifts.
So no-body gets thrown in at the deep end, in fact we provide individual support and make sure trainees only take their first call when they feel ready. During the mentoring phase, we continue the training and support with monthly group sessions as well.
In the words of one of our September 2018 trainees, Karen: “The training can be challenging but the team create an environment that allows us to deal with that, and to support each other.”
She goes on: “It’s some of the best training I’ve ever had, and we’re all finding we’re using it in our daily lives; we’re listening more, interrupting less, and crucially we’re hearing more.”
What sort of people find their way to our training course? They are from all walks of life, different backgrounds, ages and gender, a real mix of people.
They usually have had challenging experiences of their own, or seen loved-ones go through difficult times, or they could simply have got to a place in their lives where they want to give something back.
What sort of people deliver the training? We are all listening volunteers ourselves, and we love the training because we feel a sense of pride and enormous satisfaction in getting new volunteers ready to join the branch.
I hope that comes through in the training, and I know our trainees appreciate the humour we bring to it and the fun we have along the way. Not to mention the homemade cakes and biscuits we get to scoff and the lovely welcoming setting of the Maidenbower Infants School where we do the training.
We’ve teamed up with Horsham and Crawley Samaritans, who also cover Mid Sussex, to help raise awareness of who they are and what they do. Over the coming weeks we’ll bring you a series of articles to give an insight into the Samaritans as a whole, and a focus on the local branch.