This Text Line Provides Free Therapy

by Eliza Castile

Although most people use texting for making plans and sending adorable cat photos, the Crisis Text Line is putting it to an entirely different purpose. On the surface, it's like any other help line — with just one number, anyone in need is immediately put in contact with a trained therapist. Unlike other help lines, however, the Crisis Text Line lets you talk without ever actually having to, well, talk — making it an enormous help for people who have trouble speaking on the phone.

Rather than having counselors waiting on the other end of a telephone line, the nonprofit has 400 trained volunteers waiting behind a computer screen, so users can get help without having to talk on the phone. Many people prefer texting to speaking, the Daily Dot points out, and as a result, the Crisis Text Line may be more appealing to someone in a crisis. In addition, director of operations Baylee Greenberg claims that texting's "extremely factual" nature helps counselors identify the problem early on. "By the third text message, we generally know the exact issue at hand," she told the Daily Dot.

Although the therapists are volunteers, each goes through an extensive, 34-hour online training course before being put in contact with other therapists. Finally, after a final video chat with a trainer, the volunteer is placed in the field, so to speak, where they remain in contact with other therapists as they work. (Teamwork makes the dream work, y'all.)

One of the text line's other unique qualities is its lack of specificity. Many existing help lines include a text-based section, but most focus on their phone lines or online chatting options. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, National Domestic Violence Hotline, and even Planned Parenthood all offer online chat, for example, which is becoming increasingly popular. According to the Wall Street Journal, the National Dating Abuse Hotline's chatting option receives messages at the same rate as phone calls, and volunteer-based online network IMAlive focuses solely on providing counseling through instant messaging.

According to the Pew Research Center, texting among teens rose from 50 to 60 texts a day between 2009 and 2011, and it stands to reason that the number would continue to rise. The same study found that 75 percent of teens overall use text messaging, and crisis helpline volunteers have begun to see this trend in their work.

"You can chat all you want but you're going to get older people," Crisis Call Center coordinator Debbie Gant-Reed told the Huffington Post in 2013. "Young people don't chat. They text."

Some attribute this to users' desire for anonymity, which is easier to maintain through text than through phone calls. "When they're in crisis, more often than not, the need for intimacy, the need for privacy trumps all else," NYU assistant professor of communication Danah Boyd told the Wall Street Journal.

Crisis Text Line is the first 24/7, text-based helpline of its kind, and most importantly, it isn't specific — unlike most other helplines, users going through any kind of crisis are free to call. Since its launch in 2013, the help line appears to be doing well; it's been featured in the New Yorker , Glamour , Wired , and many more magazines.

To volunteer with the Crisis Text Line, check out their website. If you need help, text "start" to 741-741.

Images: Jim Pennucci/Flickr; Giphy