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A Crisis Chatline Counselor's Tips For Being a Better Digital Listener

Effective Intervention When Face-to-Face is Not an Option

Chris Lazarus is the Assistant Director of Operations, Online and Bilingual Services at Response Crisis Center. Recently, she partnered with Michelle Kuchuk, M.S Best Practices in Clinical Technologies at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and shared with us a few tips for maintaining a trusting tone with an individual in need of guidance and support on a digital chatline. As Chris and Michelle point out, there are many parts of human interaction that get 'lost-in-digital-translation', whether it be posture, facial expressions, or other nonverbal cues, operating the digital chatline is a delicate process that demands a gentle approach to expression and an even more dynamic approach to listening and understanding.

They outlines three strong tips for effective crisis intervention and note that these simple things can establish a clear connection for confidentiality, support, and understanding when dealing with an individual, friend, or family member in crisis.

1. Incorporate Ourselves More

"Since we do not have the benefit of posture, warmth, and other nonverbal cues, it is essential to figure out how to insert ourselves into the chat."

2. Use All of Your Active Listening Tools

"Sometimes, over chat, we don’t utilize all active listening strategies and techniques. In this pitfall, counselors understandably rely too heavily on questions — which cause even more of an interrogative atmosphere than over the phone."

3. Get Meta & Talk About the Problem

"Remember: any feeling that is mentioned is a feeling that can be discussed in the greater context of what’s going on for them. Talking about it openly and honestly can only help develop and maintain rapport."

Read more about Chris' tips for effective crisis hotline operation in Lifeline's Meduim article, "How to Be a Human on Crisis Chat".