In Texting Era, Crisis Hotlines Put Help at Youths’ Fingertips


The counselor was empathetic. She asked for more detail about the family, offered encouragement and provided the name of a local support group.It was in many ways a typical exchange on a crisis hotline, except it took place entirely by texting.

While counseling by phone remains far more prevalent, texting has become such a fundamental way to communicate, particularly among people under 20, that crisis groups have begun to adopt it as an alternative way of providing emergency services and counseling.

Texting provides privacy that can be crucial if a person feels threatened by someone near them, counselors say. It also looks more natural if the teenager is in public. “They can still look ‘cool’ to their peers or friends while receiving assistance that they are in desperate need of,” said Jerry Weichman, a clinical psychologist in Newport Beach, Calif., who deals with adolescent issues.

For counselors, texting allows them to deal with more than one person at a time and to introduce experts into a conversation without transferring or placing a caller on hold. Exchanges by text, they point out, can also resume more seamlessly after an interruption, because a written record of previous conversations already exists.

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