Samaritan volunteers make a difference in the lives of our callers every day – just by picking up the phone.

Our volunteers are a fantastic group of people who care. They are not counselors or therapists. They do not diagnose or offer solutions. They simply listen with empathy and compassion to callers who need to hear a friendly, caring voice.

Learn more     Volunteer application

Many of our volunteers come to us after seeing the signs on the Bourne and Sagamore bridges asking for volunteers. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, or even years before a prospective volunteer calls us – it can feel a little intimidating to think about volunteering on a crisis line! So rest assured it’s completely normal to wonder if you’ll be able to do everything our volunteers do. But don’t worry: we’ll train you extensively in non-judgmental active listening and help you learn the critical skills necessary to become a great Samaritan volunteer.

Prospective volunteers often have a lot of questions, and we’ve tried to answer many of them below. But please feel free to call our office too; we’d love to chat with you more about volunteering with us!

Without our volunteers, we couldn’t do the work we do. Will you help us make a difference?

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I become a Samaritan volunteer?

First, thank you for being interested in volunteering with us! We are always looking for volunteers and are so happy that you’re thinking about it.

We wish everyone who wanted to volunteer with us we could just start on the crisis lines right away. But that wouldn’t set our volunteers or our callers up for success. Instead, we ask that prospective crisis line volunteers complete these steps to help prepare you best:

  1. You’ll complete a volunteer application (either at our office or using the online form available above).
  2. Next, you’ll set up a time to meet with us at our office for about 30 minutes. This is a great way for you to get to know us better and so you can get a better feel for what volunteering with us is like. We also need to run background checks on prospective volunteers, so be sure to bring a photo ID with you when you visit.
  3. If volunteering with us seems like it’ll be a great fit, we’ll get you signed up for the next available Samaritan volunteer training class. Volunteer classes are held at our office and include 15 hours of classroom training and a 5 hour observation shift with a more experienced Samaritan volunteer.
  4. And then…Congratulations! You’re a Samaritan! You’ve now joined a fantastic worldwide tradition of caring people who have made a commitment to make a difference in the lives of those in need at the time they need us most. You can choose as many or as few volunteer shifts that work with your schedule. We’re happy with whatever time you can give us!

What’s it like being a volunteer with the Samaritans?

Volunteering with the Samaritans is unlike many other volunteer opportunities. There is no “typical” day, so you will never get bored! Many of our volunteers enjoy that it’s a very active volunteer position – you’re never “going through the motions” when you’re on the phone lines. Instead you’re always actively listening and helping callers feel comfortable while they unburden.

Since volunteers are busy on the phone lines when they’re at our office, we try to arrange several get-togethers throughout the year for volunteers who want to spend time with other volunteers. Whether it’s special events, potlucks in the summer, or our annual volunteer appreciation dinner, we love having time together as a Samaritan family whenever possible.

Do I need to be a nurse or social worker to volunteer with you?

Nope! Professional healthcare experience is not needed to be a Samaritan volunteer. All you need is the capacity to care and we’ll help with the rest.

How old do I have to be?

We ask that Samaritan volunteers be 18 years of age.

I’ve never been depressed or suicidal before. Can I still volunteer on the crisis lines?

Absolutely! Volunteers do not need to have lived the same experiences as our callers in order to be compassionate, caring listeners.

Do I need to be able to talk to callers about what I’ve been through in life?

No; actually the opposite is true. Our volunteers are not supposed to share personal details about their past with callers. That can be difficult, sometimes, particularly if a caller is describing a situation that you’ve experienced before. And it can be especially hard when a caller asks you for advice! We’ll train you how to handle situations like these. But a key point to remember: what may have worked for you during a tough time, might not work for a caller.

We want to be a safe place someone can call without feeling like yet another person is trying to “fix” them. As Samaritans we don’t diagnose or solve problems, and we don’t share our life stories. Instead we focus only on the caller’s lived experience.

How would you describe the type of people who volunteer with you?

Fantastic, inspiring, and unbelievably caring. But you know what? Most of our volunteers wouldn’t describe themselves that way. Instead they’d probably just say they’re only someone who wants to help. And in that way, we absolutely agree: our volunteers are just regular, everyday people who care and want to make a difference. Just like you!

We do love that our volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Men, women, college students, full-time professionals, and retirees all volunteer with us. And although no two of our volunteers are alike, each of them shares a common wish to listen to those in need.

What is the training class like? What will I learn?

Crisis line volunteers attend five nights of training for a total of 15 hours of classroom work. The training classes are typically 5:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night and then finish up the following Monday and Tuesday. Training classes are small – usually between 2-6 students – which allows for a lot of discussion and interaction.

Each class is led by staff members and/or long-time Samaritan volunteers and will cover the topics you’re most likely to encounter while volunteering on the phone lines. Most of all, you will learn how to be a non-judgmental active listener.

Although the classes touch on some emotionally heavy topics, the training classes are surprisingly uplifting…and, believe it or not, quite a bit of fun! And you’ll develop a nice bond with the rest of the volunteers in your class.

After completing the 15 hours of classroom training, new volunteers will attend an observation shift so they can observe a more experienced Samaritan volunteer on the phone lines. This is also the time where you’ll really see how all of the skills you learned in training will help you on the phones.

How often are your volunteer training classes?

We train new volunteers every odd-numbered month (i.e. January, March) for a total of six training sessions each year. So depending on when you’re reading this, chances are a new training class is about to start!

Are there other types of training opportunities for volunteers during the year?

Absolutely! We provide many opportunities for our volunteers to brush up on their skills or learn more about new topics throughout the year. Whenever possible we host guest speakers, and we always are sure to let volunteers know about other community events that may be of interest or help them with their work on the crisis lines.

How many hours each week can I volunteer?

We love it when our volunteers can do one crisis line shift each week (about 5 hours), but we know that’s not always possible. We have some volunteers who volunteer with us once a month and others who are only with us in the summer or winter. However much time you are able to give is very much appreciated!

Are all the callers suicidal?

No. In fact, most of the callers are not suicidal. Many callers have thought about suicide at some point or they may do so in the future, but most callers are not actively suicidal when they call. Usually callers are lonely, depressed, upset, or confused and have nowhere else to turn.

Is it depressing to be on the crisis phone lines?

Just the opposite, in fact. It can be remarkably rewarding to know you are there to listen to someone during their time in need. And while there are many times you may be tired at the end of your shift, you will always know you made a difference. It’s amazing what just one person simply listening to another person can do!

I’m not sure I’d be comfortable volunteering on the crisis lines, but I’d really like to help. What can I do?

If you’re interested in working with people in need but would prefer not to volunteer on the crisis lines, we have a few ways to help. Our Senior Outreach volunteers call their assigned senior once a week over the phone to listen and provide support. (For training, you’ll follow the same steps to volunteer with us as the crisis line volunteers do.) And our Safe Place facilitators work with survivors of suicide loss twice a month at support groups in Hyannis or Falmouth. (Safe Place facilitators also complete the crisis line volunteer training, but will then complete an additional training regarding group facilitation.)

If you’d like to help out in a completely different way, we are always looking for volunteers to assist us throughout the year. Whether it’s helping to plan our annual golf or bocce tournaments, stuffing envelopes for our bi-annual appeals, or helping to connect us to groups who would like to learn more about suicide prevention, we’d love to hear from you!

And, of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that we rely on donations to do our work in the community. It’d be great if you would consider donating today!