December 11, 2017
Sarah Kate McGowan, Ph.D.
Teen Line Listener 1999-2004
Teen Line Board Member 2015-present
When I was a 9th grader in high school and got accepted into Teen Line, I had to make a choice: attend the coveted Freshman canoeing/camping trip or attend the first week of the 13-week intensive training that Teen Line provides to its listeners. Although it felt like a hard decision at the time, little did I know that that decision and my involvement in Teen Line throughout my high school years would shape the course of my professional and personal life.
The training and experience that teens receive by working at Teen Line is unmatched. Being a listener opened my eyes to the types of issues that other teens were facing and provided me with invaluable skills on how to be an active listener, how to provide comfort and support to others, and how to connect others to important resources. Talking with other teens who were experiencing their own struggles taught me empathy and humility. It fostered my desire to pursue a career of helping others.
One of my most memorable calls was speaking with a teen who had been at Columbine High School on the day of the mass shooting. It was a personally challenging call as I remember feeling helpless, unable to “do” anything except listen and provide support. At the end of the call, the teen said that she was feeling better having been able to express her emotions to someone. Even now, I am struck with power of listening- how even when we cannot change a situation, we can help others by simply being a compassionate, empathetic, and supportive ear.
Teen Line was the first of many experiences that pushed me towards the field of psychology. I am now a licensed clinical psychologist working at VA Greater Los Angeles and I have a small private practice. Every day I use skills that I first learned and developed at Teen Line. After moving back to Los Angeles, I was thrilled to be invited onto the Board of Directors at Teen Line. It has been an honor to serve in this role and continue to be involved with an organization that has had such a large impact on my life and the lives of countless others.