A Listener's Story
(Here is the first in a new series of interviews with people working behind the scenes at SOS Help. This month we meet a volunteer listener.)
What is it like to be a Listener for
One of our Listeners tells us...
How long have you been an
SOS Help Listener?
I have been listening with SOS Help for 3 years. When I moved to France I knew it was important to find a new purpose in my life. I looked around for volunteering opportunities and I attended an information session about SOS Help.
What training did you have to do?
The recruitment and training were thorough and pushed me to think long and hard about whether this was something I wanted to do. It was not going to be easy and it was important that I could make a long-term commitment. From the very start I was impressed by the people giving their time to SOS Help.
The training took place over several months with a qualified psychologist and an experienced listener. It included lots of practical role play. It was a great way to get to know my fellow trainees, I felt I was becoming part of a team. Some people decided not to continue with the training: being a Listener does not suit everyone and some people chose to support our work in other ways.
What does listening involve?
I volunteer three times a month for a four hour shift. Each shift is different. Some calls are very similar, some are very difficult. You never know what is coming next. Some people just need to talk about their day. Others need to talk about the situations they are dealing with. Many people need to talk about their feelings: people can be very distressed and in a very dark place. I also attend a monthly support group. This has helped me improve my listening and continues to give me support with calls I find distressing.
It is natural to want to help other people and our first instinct is to want to offer practical support and advice. I have learnt that this is often not what people need, more than anything they need to be listened to. You need to listen for what the caller is feeling and help them explore and express their feelings. It feels so good when this works and the fear and anxiety you initially hear in a caller’s voice slowly disappears and their mood improves.
What would you say to those interested in being a Listener?
I am glad I decided to become a Listener. We offer an important service to anglophones in France who need to talk. Listening is not for everyone, as it can be difficult and emotionally draining, but it is also hugely rewarding when you end a call feeling the caller is in a better place because you have listened to them.
Listening at SOS Help in figures
€15 pays for the cost of running our Listening Post for one day
€50 pays for a Listener's monthly support session with a qualified counsellor
€150 pays for the training of a new Listener
To help us provide our listening service, or if you are interested in becoming a Listener for SOS Help, click on the relevant link at the bottom of the page.