My first career was in the restaurant industry, managing restaurants and eventually managing theaters and event venues for a large chain of Oregon brewpubs. I had to leave because I drank too much, and I was like a kid in a candy store.
Eventually, I became interested in the substance use recovery field and worked as an addiction counselor and case manager. I wanted to move into the mental health field, and I became a volunteer for Trauma Intervention Programs Northwest (TIP), which dispatches volunteers to 911 scenes to address secondary trauma immediately following an emergency.
I’m good at sitting with people who are experiencing horrible things. It’s always a delicate conversation, but people are more willing to talk after we build some trust.
One thing that’s really important in crisis work is not to skip over the pain someone is going through, but to sit in that moment for as long as it takes for them to feel ready.
I started at Lines for Life in 2005 as a volunteer and answered crisis calls for several years before starting full-time answering the Veterans Crisis Line. From there, I moved into precepting and then into training.
Now as a Clinical Trainer, I help train and onboard new crisis counselors at Lines for Life. I lead training about the specific needs of Military Service Members and Veterans, and how to support them. I also guide new staff through theories on suicide prevention and we listen to examples of crisis calls together. We talk about the strategies we use at Lines for Life to support people who call on the crisis lines.
Often, when people try to start the conversation and talk to someone about a mental health concern, the person they approach feels inclined to give advice right away or to try to fix the problem, rather than listening and validating the person. Listening nonjudgmentally and validating someone’s feelings can be the beginning of much more positive outcomes.
I teach call counselors to honor that people have the wisdom within themselves to figure things out and feel better about their lives when they’re given a safe space to do so. It’s our job to create that space for people to move toward safety.