Collection of crisis call role play scenarios
November 29, 2011 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Please help me come up with role play scenarios to assist me in practicing my telephone counselling skills.

In a few weeks I will be assessed in my telephone counselling course, so I am doing a lot of practice phone calls with my peers.

It's gotten to the point where I struggle to come up with scenarios and wind up doing the same calls every time - e.g. Relationship breakup, gambling addiction.

I thought mefites could give me short paragraphs describing how the person is presenting, a bit of their back stories, and maybe occasionally some key phrases that might be challenging to work with, e.g. "you suck! You're not helping at all!"

We are being assessed on 3 types of calls - suicide intervention, crisis, and mental health.

Thanks my imaginative friends!
posted by KLF to Human Relations (14 answers total)
Best answer: Ideas:
-- 3rd party calls (child, significant other, friend) or scenarios where caller is pretending to talk about someone else
-- calls where you have to dig to find out something is wrong (the caller is pretending everything is fine)
-- imminent harm scenarios
-- symptoms of mental illness (manic behavior, disordered speech, flattened affect, panic attacks)

Other issues that people might struggle with:
-- social anxiety
-- old age/isolation (stuck in a nursing home, death of spouse, etc.)
-- loss of a pet
-- hoarding
-- coming to terms with alternative sexuality/gender identification
-- dealing with rape or sexual assault
-- leaving an abusive relationship

The phrase that has always been the most difficult for me to deal with is the repeated, entirely certain: "I just don't think there's anything anyone can do."
posted by shaun uh at 5:14 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: Here are some scenarios loosely based on people I have known in the past, who I WISH had called counselling help lines:

1. I think I might be depressed. I can't get out of bed and spend all day crying and I hate my life. My friends told me to go to the doctor, and I did, but he said he thought I wasn't seriously depressed and I just had to pull myself together. So I guess I'm just being a big baby, but I don't know what to do anymore and I'm about to lose my job for absenteeism.

Let's say this person is hardly talking on the phone, but crying a bit, and you can get each of these pieces of information out of them gradually over a period of 30 minutes or so. So it's not as though they are exactly opening up to you about their backstory, and it doesn't seem like they really want to talk.

2. My wife is suing me for full custody of my kids, and I can't stand the thought of her taking them. I would go crazy without the kids. They are my life. I'm thinking of taking them back to my home country secretly so that she can't get to them.

In this case, let's say that the person is seriously considering this as a last-ditch plan, and doesn't care that it's totally illegal. They'd rather risk life in prison than losing custody.

3. I'm gay and 15 years old and my parents will totally disown me if they find out. I don't have any friends, anyone I could live with, and no way to support myself. I'm still in high school. I'm being bullied. My only friend is another gay kid, but he's out, and my parents have told me I have to stop seeing him.
posted by lollusc at 5:17 PM on November 29, 2011

It will be GREAT to have strategies to address the all-too-currently common "I'm broke and un/underemployed and can't find a job, and I have student loans/a family to support/etc., and I want to crawl in bed and never come out etc."
posted by nicebookrack at 5:18 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bonus: "I'm broke and have no medical insurance and can't afford antidepressants or therapy, and if I get treatment it'll show up on insurance as a preexisting condition!"
posted by nicebookrack at 5:20 PM on November 29, 2011

Oh, and this is one that we got given in our "introduction to Danish language and society" course: A 17-year-old woman who sees no way out except suicide. Her conservative, religious family moved to (insert your country here) a few years before. She is not allowed out of the house unless accompanied by her mother (if visiting women, the doctor, or doing the shopping only), or her brothers (for anything else). She doesn't speak the language well. She is about to be married to someone she doesn't know, but is scared of. She hears rumours he is violent. She would rather die than marry this man. She doesn't have enough education or language skills to get a job or further education, even if she were allowed to. She doesn't know about any resources the community might offer to help her. She sees no other options for her future besides marriage or even if she could avoid it, living at home forever as a pseudo-servant to her parents, having no friends or relationships of her own. Her father is stern and conservative and absolutely unbending, but has never abused her or treated her in any way that is illegal.

The big difficulty with this call is that the woman would have minimal English language skills, and would have difficulty expressing any nuances of the situation. She would not always understand your questions. You might wonder whether you are accurately understanding her situation or whether she is exaggerating some aspects of it because she doesn't have the English to explain in other terms.
posted by lollusc at 5:23 PM on November 29, 2011

Last one, I promise:

Have you considered situations where it isn't clear whether the person has a mental health problem or is pranking you? E.g. sexual talk, or personal insults/threats, or them saying they have a problem/committed a crime that you think it unlikely they would admit to but very serious if true (pedophile, animal abuse, child abuse, murder).
posted by lollusc at 5:27 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: "I just had a baby a few weeks ago. The baby cries and I dread having to change his diaper or feed him. Sometimes I can't stop crying. My husband just makes it worse. I get so angry at him and say horrible things to him. I look like hell. I'm really ugly and I'm incontinent. My body is wrecked forever. I don't know what to do...I wish I never had a baby. "

This is PPD, in case it's not obvious. You can switch it up with post-partum psychosis if you introduce a few delusions.

Good luck on your test!
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:33 PM on November 29, 2011

My guess is that you could get tons of ideas by acting out scenarios from online or newspaper advice columns. For example, just this week, Carolyn Hax of the Washington Post has answered questions from a woman who has to move back in with her parents because she lost her job, someone who is sad about aging and feels as though the best years of his life are over, and someone with a dying parent. I bet if you look through old advice columns, you'll find all sorts of relationship drama and family issues and mental health problems that you could role play with one another.
posted by decathecting at 5:36 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: * I've been unemployed (or underemployed) for a year or so, I can't make the rent or mortgage anymore, and I'll be homeless in X amount of time.
* I'm being stalked.
* I think I'm having auditory hallucinations. It's like I hear a radio played at low volume.
* I need major dental work, and I don't have the money to cover it.
* My parents threw me out because I'm gay.
* My ex won't leave my apartment.
* The caller doesn't have an immediate crisis but calls about whatever problem because he or she is lonely.
* I'm driving across the country. My car broke down, I paid to get it fixed, but now I don't have any money left.
* Caller is victim of same-sex sexual assault.
* Caller is victim of domestic abuse ... abuser is a woman.
* Pornography addiction.
* Internet or video game addiction.
* Emotional affair.
* Caller is concerned about loved one who appears to be in a cult.
* Caller is concerned about loved one apparently being taken advantage of by scam artist "met" through dating site.
* Caller's parents are elderly and may be falling prey to swindle.
* Caller is a prostitute and wants to quit but is afraid of pimp.
* Human trafficking.
* Caller has whatever problem and is illegal alien.
* I've started sleepwalking and wonder if I might hurt myself.
* Caller's parents are elderly and in whatever way(s) not taking care of themselves as they should.
* My ex is threatening suicide if we don't get back together.
posted by maurreen at 5:51 PM on November 29, 2011

I worked as a telephone counselor many years ago. I had a caller who had initiated the suicide attempt either right before the call started or while we were on the phone. We were trained to ask if the caller had already done something to hurt themselves and this person said no. What tipped me off was the person started slurring words and sounding confused. You can do one role play where the person asks for help and another where they refuse.

Also, homicidal callers. They were rare for us, but happened from time to time.
posted by Nolechick11 at 6:04 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: You are planning to scour the human relations archives at AskMe, right?

1. I'll be homeless if I move out, and I can't because my mom/dad is alcoholic/mentally ill/disabled/old/unable to care for my younger siblings/going to abandon me/going to throw away all my stuff, but I'm being abused/threatened.

2. My abusive partner just got arrested for a DUI/shoplifting/etc. and wants me to bail him out.

3. My child just got arrested.

4. My child/partner/etc. committed suicide and all I can think about is wanting to be with them.

5. Child calling about a friend who might be being abused.

6. I hate my life and my major and my roommate and I just can't stand this place anymore.

7. Caller is highly manipulative and overly emotional (call is for whatever reason.) Use the DSM symptoms of borderline personality disorder as a model.

8. I've been having sex with my teacher and I want to stop but I don't want anyone to find out what I've done, because she'll be fired and everyone will remember it for ever.

9. I had an abortion because my boyfriend was going to break up with me if I didn't and now I'm depressed/suicidal/want to talk to people but can't because it's a secret/etc.

10. I've been having an affair (my husband is overseas) and I'm pretty sure I'm pregnant. I don't want a divorce, and I don't want an abortion. What do I do?

11. If I get a divorce I'll lose everything because I was a SAHM, but if I have to stay in the marriage I'll kill myself.

12. I'm a high school student and my best friend (who is 18) is homeless. My parents say she can't live here. What can I do?

13. My parents will disown me if I join [X] church. Except, I already did. It's driving me crazy keeping up the lie. How can I get away from them?
posted by SMPA at 6:08 PM on November 29, 2011

key phrases that might be challenging to work with, e.g. "you suck! You're not helping at all!"

How about the person who counters every suggestion with a reason why it will never work?
posted by Wordwoman at 6:16 PM on November 29, 2011

The best training is IRL.

I had a job that required me to wait around in outdoor areas amongst homeless people, small-time dealers and sex workers. Once they got used to me being there, I had nothing better to do than talk to them. I didn't offer advice, but I did draw them out and ask about things that I didn't understand. Some of them understood their own situation much better after fully articulating something difficult to a stranger. Some of them threatened violence. ("I have to be here. You started the conversation and I'm just asking questions because I'd like to understand.") A couple years of that and I aced my interview for the kind of job you seem to be looking for.

You don't have that kind of time, but how often could you volunteer at a shelter in the next 3 weeks? Tell the screeners that you want to listen to the residents. RP has limitations. You should hear some real stories and think about your responses very carefully.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:22 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: -I'm going with my girl/boyfriend to meet their family at Christmas. Their family doesn't even know they're gay.

-I'm running out of my medication and I can't afford to take time off work to see a doctor and get a new prescription, but I'm starting to feel suicidal more than usual.

-I just hit my child and I don't know what to do.

-Caller just wants someone to talk to. We had a few of these when I worked at a crisis line; they called regularly and would stay on the phone for an hour or more. If your agency has a specific procedure to deal with similar callers, practice that.

-I just took a bunch of pills but now I don't want to die, but I can't go to the hospital because my parents would find out.

-(young child caller) Daddy hit Mommy and she fell down the stairs.
posted by epj at 5:57 AM on November 30, 2011

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