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 and join one of the Information Sessions. Phase two requires the applicant to complete the multiple-choice questionnaire and a phone interview with the applicant, and lastly an observation shift. All applicants must also go through a police information check and vulnerable sector check, also a Child Intervention 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, grief&loss,
    • mental health, communication skills,
    • addictions, domestic abuse,
    • Being An Ally, and community partnerships.
  • Volunteers will complete a series of online self-paced and attend classroom sessions either online or onsite.
  • Distress Centre adheres to a hybrid model of remote and in-person work. Volunteers will have the option to attend remote, evening, training classes or condensed, daytime, and in-person classes (dependent on training session).
    • Remote evenings are run on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6pm-9pm for 5 weeks.
  • Day time classes are run from 10 am-1 pm, daily for 10 days.
  • All volunteers go through a minimum of three coaching shifts (up to a maximum of five) with the full support of a coach. While this schedule is a little more flexible for the volunteers to find times that suit them, some flexibility is required to ensure this is completed in a timely manner.

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 trainees will be asked to wait for the next training session.

What happens after training?

Successful completion of training is followed by a three-month probation period. This provides the volunteer and Distress Centre opportunities to determine if this is a good fit while providing additional support and learning opportunities.

What is the time commitment?

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. 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 always have adequate coverage. 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 until 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 at their own discretion. The first volunteer is scheduled at six in the morning with a shift starting approximately every hour; the last phone line volunteer leaves at midnight. The last online services volunteer leaves at one am.*

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

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

Are there opportunities for additional training?

Distress Centre strives to host monthly developmental training when the opportunity allows. Some topics have included: building assertiveness, mental health support in the community, gambler’s anonymity, 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 are 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 is not made by our volunteers, nor is that decision taken lightly. 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.

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.

Distress Centre has a number of partnerships. Occasionally, our partnerships will transfer their lines to our agency. Including, but not limited to, Eastside Community Mental Health Services and Calgary Counselling Centre. Volunteers will be responsible for answering those calls, taking messages, providing emotional support and information.

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.