Crisis Line Study

Crisis Line Volunteers’ Emotional Labour in Conversations with Chronic Problem versus Acute Crisis Callers: An Event-Sampling Study at a German Telephone Helpline

by Patricia Karsten

The study documents a research project in Berlin, Germany, about the emotional labour of crisis line volunteers. It was conducted for a Masters Degree in Psychological Research Methods at the Open University, UK. The published text is an abriged version of the original dissertation. The research project and the dissertation were completed in 2013, while the dissertation was made publicly available later in 2015.

In the research, a questionnaire was developed and applied in an event-sampling methodology to measure aspects of emotional labour. The study focused on differences related to chronic problem versus acute crisis calls. A catalog of emotional labour indicators was analyzed statistically with repeated-measures ANOVA. It was found that crisis line volunteers experienced a larger proportion of positive over negative emotions with acute crisis calls, and a balanced proportion of positive and negative emotions with chronic problem calls. At the same time, volunteers reported a general tendency to suppress negative emotions, which was interpreted as a form of emotional labour. Consequently, the overall degree of emotional labour appeared larger with chronic problem compared to acute crisis calls. Taking the relatively high proportion of chronic problem calls and individual differences in volunteer resilience into account, the results of the study point to a factor that might contribute to volunteer turnover. It can thus be beneficial for crisisline organizations to specifically address experience and expression of negative emotions in continuous training and supervision.

Patricia Karsten (2013/2015) Crisis Line Volunteers’ Emotional Labour in Conversations with Chronic Problem versus Acute Crisis Callers: An Event-Sampling Study at a German Telephone Helpline. Norderstedt: BoD. ISBN 3739262990

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