Chapter Four: Resourcing RAs!

As we prepare for our 35th Anniversary, Dr. Leader will share her memories of the early days of TEEN LINE in a series we like to call…

By Elaine Leader, Ph.D., CGP, BCD, FAGPA

Susan Dey Dr Leader Terry Lipton TEEN LINE

At the time we initiated TEEN LINE we were subsumed under the Dept. of Psychiatry and were sharing office space with another community program called the Rape Response Center.  When we first opened the hotline we held shifts only Thursday-Sunday evenings. It soon became apparent; however, that we needed to be available on a daily basis and that meant recruiting other mental health professionals to supervise shifts.

We came up with the title, Resource Associate for the name of the adult volunteer who would help with supervising our teen volunteers on shift.   Then the question arose, who would we get! And what would they gain by volunteering? We decided to recruit unlicensed mental health professionals or even graduate students studying for an MA in counseling or for an MSW looking for experience working with adolescents. Our very first RA recruit was a social worker who was working at Metropolitan State Hospital with mainly psychotic adults.   She committed to volunteering for a year under my supervision.   A plus was when things were quiet on shift she also helped to educate our teen volunteers about severe mental illnesses. The recruitment process gradually evolved. I developed an application and training schedule for the adult volunteers along with a regular supervision schedule.  To recruit candidates I contacted graduate programs to inform them of this opportunity for their graduate students to gain experience about adolescent issues.

About a year after the hotline was open daily from 6-10 pm, the Rape Response Center moved out of the office suite giving us more space for our growing needs.  We had decided that with such a new program that it was important to have continuing education for our teen volunteers beyond the initial formal training period.  Our Trainer, Patricia Wisne, Ph.D., agreed to offer a monthly supervision group for this purpose.   This gradually evolved into an opportunity to provide invited speakers to assist with continuing education for the teens with their supervision to follow immediately afterwards.   Of course, this was a big commitment of time (6 – 7:30 pm for the workshop and 7:30-8:30 pm supervision) since the teens were also committed to one evening shift a week too.

An important and pressing need was to get the word out to the community about our program to recruit support.  We needed to set up as a 501(c)3 non-profit with the IRS and to recruit board members and an attorney to write our By-Laws. We were very fortunate to have good friends that were willing to give their time and their professional expertise and by 1982 all was in place.   We called our non-profit The Center for the Study of Young People in Groups aka TEEN LINE. Dr. Terry Lipton was our its Board President and I the first Executive Director, a position I held up until April 27th, 2015 when Michelle Carlson, MPH took over and my title became Founder.

Along with these important changes was the need for good public relations and publicity.  I loved this part of my job and my next installment will give you more on how that developed!

Read the next chapter: Pt 5 – Blowing our horn.

Miss an earlier Foundations Blog? Catch up here:

Pt 1 – Birth of a hotline

Pt 2 – Training begins

Pt 3 – Early Challenges



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