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Crisis Support Hotline Highlight:
Inviting the Venerable Chang-Fa as an On-Site Mentor

At the beginning of 2018, the Venerable Chang-Fa from Lan-Yang monastery was invited by the Dharma Drum Humanities & Social Improvement Foundation(法鼓山人文社會基金會) to help mentor the dedicated volunteers serving the Crisis Support Hotline (關懷生命專線), which operates once a month.

With a psychological consulting background combined with a deep understanding of Buddhism, the Venerable Chang-Fa (常法法師) is able to help improve the quality of phone counseling, including providing specific advice to the callers seeking help.

The Venerable Chang-Fa was on-site the whole day on January 5th, and February 5th, accompanying the volunteer operators and listening to the phone exchanges. After each call, the Venerable Chang-Fa would focus on the following main areas:

1.Help identify the emotional state and circumstances of the caller
2.Assess and prioritize the core issues affecting the caller
3.Focus on communicating in a sincere and empathetic tone of voice
4.Promote encouraging and positive messages

Through this methodical process, the Venerable Chang-Fa was able to achieve new breakthroughs for the volunteers’ consultation skills each time.

The job of a crisis hotline operator is not an easy one—it can be quite frustrating at times because they may feel helpless trying to understand and assist the callers. The Venerable Chang-Fa suggested that one should practice assessing the caller’s personality, whether they are experiencing any self-doubt or a lack of confidence, have an underlying undiagnosed illness or health issues that need to be addressed, or, if they simply feel trapped by their own circumstances.

Once the volunteer has a good understanding of the situation, they can then show their support without judgment, find a path to ease the discomfort of the callers, and calm their agitated minds. It is after completing this that the caller may be willing to accept the advice of the hotline operator.

When facing callers who may have mental health issues and are under treatment, the Venerable Chang-Fa encourages the volunteers to be patient with them, and to advise the callers to continue to follow the advice of their doctors.

In addition to coaching the volunteers, the Venerable Chang-Fa’s other goal is to build a strong and trusting volunteer team through Buddhist teachings. She encouraged everyone to share either their own life stories, or the stories of others’—to help illustrate and practice empathy between peers.

Master Sheng-Yen once said: " a great bodhisattva takes on hardship and suffering itself. ", meaning, even the caller is teaching the volunteer an important lesson. Thus, the Venerable Chang-Fa advised that it is crucial for the volunteers to first cleanse and calm their minds, let their minds be filled with positive energy, in order to be a better adviser before answering calls. And finally, as a good Buddhist practice —to transfer merit back to all sentient beings before going to bed every night and be inspired to become someone determined, strong, and compassionate.

Texts: Nancy Chu (朱慧芬),
Photos:Dharma Drum Humanities & Social Improvement Foundation(法鼓山人文社會基金會)
Translation: Jenn Soong; James Chang
Editor: DDM Editorial Team; Christine Huang

More information of Dharma Drum Humanities & Social Improvement Foundation
Crisis Support Hotline under DDHSIF: 02-23118585

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Inviting the Venerable Chang-Fa as an On-Site Mentor