Volunteer Frequently Asked Questions

What does the recruitment and screening process look like?

Our recruitment and screening process takes place in two main phases. Phase one requires the applicant to fill out the online application form and to also complete a multiple-choice questionnaire. Phase two consists of 3 parts: a phone interview with the applicant, a group interview, and lastly an observation shift. All applicants must also go through a police information check and vulnerable sector check, also an intervention record check.

What is the training process like?

Our volunteers do not need prior knowledge or experience in crisis support. Distress Centre offers comprehensive training to all new volunteers in topics including, but not limited to: crisis and suicide intervention, youth issues, bereavement, mental health, communication skills, addictions, domestic violence, Being An Ally, and community partnerships.

Volunteers also go through a minimum of four supervision shifts (up to a maximum of seven) with the support of a senior volunteer. For ConnecTeen volunteers, the number of minimum coaching shifts decreases to three. For this stage of the process, we ask applicants to be a little bit more flexible in their availability as Distress Centre coordinates the schedule between the applicant and the senior volunteer.

Volunteers also complete a series of online course modules informing them on Distress Centre procedures, partnerships, and online services. These modules can be completed at their own pace in the comfort of their own home. For Online Services volunteers, all classroom training is self-paced.

What if the applicant can’t make all of the training dates?

It is crucial that all of the trainees attend all of the training sessions as there are important topics covered in each one to ensure they are prepared to go on the lines. As such, if they are not able to make all of the training dates the trainee will be asked to wait for the next training session.

For Online Services volunteers, training is self-paced, but volunteers should expect to allow 25 hours over 2.5 weeks to completion and flexibility to book 15 hours of required training shifts. There are also opportunities for additional developmental training on a monthly basis.

What happens after training?

Successful completion of training is followed by a three-month orientation period. This provides the volunteer and Distress Centre opportunities to determine if this is a good fit.

What is the time commitment a volunteer is expected to offer?

Distress Centre Calgary expects volunteers to complete 48 shifts over the course of a year; on average 1 shift per week. For ConnecTeen volunteers, the commitment is 40 shifts over a 10 month period. New volunteers are also expected to complete one weekend shift per month (defined as any shift from Friday-Saturday) for their first three months. Volunteers can complete shifts with more frequency if they choose. The purpose behind the 48 shifts a year is to be able to ensure the lines have adequate coverage at all times. This also compensates for the investment the Distress Centre puts in for training each volunteer.

What happens if I cannot complete my commitment?

While we understand that life circumstances can be unforeseeable, we encourage potential volunteers to wait till a time in their life they have confidence they can complete the commitment. We understand that certain life events happen and can occur unexpectedly. The expectation is that volunteers maintain communication with the agency.

Shifts on the crisis lines are four hours and fifteen minutes in length.* Our crisis chat and ConnecTeen shifts are five hours.*

How are shifts scheduled? When are the shift times?

There are two main ways that volunteers choose their shifts. They can request their preferences a month ahead of time, or they can self-schedule their own shifts within the month on their own discretion. The first volunteer is scheduled at six in the morning with a shift starting approximately every hour; the last volunteer leaves at midnight.*

ConnecTeen shifts only operate between 3pm-10:30pm Monday to Friday, and 12pm-10:30pm on weekends and holidays.

Are there opportunities for additional training?

Distress Centre strives to host monthly developmental trainings when the opportunity allows. Some topics have included: building assertiveness, mental health supports in the community, gambler’s anonymous, parental alienation, to mention a few.

Do volunteers work alone? Do I have to call 911 on those who are suicidal?

The crisis lines at Distress Centre is volunteer-based, but staff supported. There are fully trained staff available to provide volunteers with guidance, support, referrals, and feedback. The decision to contact emergency services and other authorities are not placed on our volunteers. However, it is the volunteer’s duty to notify a member of the Distress Centre staff when there is a person who is at risk to themselves or others, or risk to children.

What types of calls do volunteers handle on the line?

Distress Centre operates a 24/7 crisis and distress line serving various communities regardless of age, race, gender, culture and religion. Contacts are concerned with a wide variety of issues, including situational distress, mental health challenges, bereavement, marginalization, domestic violence, abuse and suicide.

How long do I have to volunteer before I can receive a letter of reference for academia or employment?

Volunteers are expected to fulfill the minimum commitment, in order to receive a letter of reference. Distress Centre does not provide general letters of reference.

*There will be occasions where, due to unforeseen circumstances, the volunteer may need to stay past the formal shift end time.