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A trainee’s story!

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What kind of training does an SOS Listener do?

Find out in the latest article in our series about the people working behind the scenes at SOS Help.

What made you want to become an SOS Listener? 

I’d partially retired and was looking for useful and interesting things to do. I picked up a booklet of Anglophone organisations in France and found SOS Help, in search of volunteer listeners. I decided to apply, although I had plenty of doubts as to whether I would be suitable. 

What is the recruitment process?

I contacted SOS and was invited to an enrolment evening where existing volunteers told us about SOS Help’s mission, the commitment required and the training and support they receive. There was the opportunity to ask questions and I had a short interview with an existing listener. About two weeks later I was told I was through to the next phase, which would involve an interview with a psychologist. I was a little nervous, but that went well and a week or so later I was told I had been accepted for training.

How much time does the training last and what types of activity does it involve? 

The training comprised a full day on a Saturday and four mid-week evenings in central Paris. There were 12 trainees, eight female and four male, of at least five different nationalities, and ranging in age from their mid-20s to me, in my early 60s. 

The trainer, a former listener, used role play to give us a feel for just how challenging listening could be, in parallel teaching us techniques to enable us to manage the various situations we might face, and giving valuable examples of situations he and others had faced and how they dealt with them.

A key part of the training was the passive and active listens. With passive listens you listen to an experienced person taking calls. With active listens you take the calls with an experienced person listening to you. I was nervous, but the training I had received seemed to cut in automatically. I had very helpful feedback from my mentors and I felt I was getting better and becoming more confident. 

In what ways was your training different or similar to what you expected?

I was impressed by the trust that built up between the trainees and with the training leaders. We could all be open about our concerns and doubts. The fact the training continued after we had started to listen to more experienced people taking calls was really useful, as we could exchange about real life situations during the training. The training identified a major issue that I was going to have to overcome and that’s my natural inclination to propose a solution to a problem. That’s not the role of an SOS listener!

What types of ongoing training does SOS offer you? 

As a new listener, I find the monthly sharing session very useful. It’s an opportunity for all of us to raise questions about calls we might have received and to get feedback about how we might have handled them differently. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning.  

How is your listening going now?

Despite the public transport strikes and then the pandemic, I have finally started taking calls as a Listener. I was, I think naturally, quite nervous before the first call of the shift but with all the training and support I have received it went well. I’m a few weeks in now and I believe I’m providing the emotional support that the callers want.

Listening at SOS Help in figures 

€15 pays for the cost of running our Listening Post for one day

€50 euros pays for a Listeners’ monthly support session with a qualified counsellor

€150 euros 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, go to the bottom of the page.