Here are some basic, foundational skills, to use when working with someone in a support session.
Caveat: Please note that using these techniques does not make you a professional and this has not been written by a professional. They are merely suggestions to try to help.
Before going into a support session, it is important to remember that the focus of the session is the person pinging for help. Support is not about forcing your beliefs onto members or trying to change their perspectives. The primary goal of support is to Listen.
The person that you are supporting may lash out at you, yell at you, curse at you, or call you hurtful things. Try to put your own feelings aside and not take it personally. If it becomes unbearable, let another Listener take over or ping a Head Listener.
Tip #1: Get them talking. Let them ramble and paint the scenario for you.
It’s difficult to do a support session when you do not know what the issue indeed is.
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
To ensure that you know what they’re upset about, listen first.
Tip #2: If they are self-harming or in danger of self-harm, tackle that first.
Joe: I am feeling upset because my girlfriend just dumped me. I want to cut. She was everything to me. She’s already dating someone else!
You: Sorry to hear that the relationship didn’t work out. Are you cutting or feeling like cutting right this second?
Tip #3: If they are not in immediate crisis, encourage them to keep talking by asking them to elaborate on things they previously said.
Joe: No, I just have urges, but I don’t feel like cutting right now.
You: That’s great. It sucks to hear about the break-up though. How did this all happen?
Tip #4: Offer sympathy and validate their feelings where you can.
Joe: She has been distant for the past few days, and suddenly she dumped me for another guy. He was my friend too.
You: Wow, it’s pretty crappy that they did that to you. You trusted her as your girlfriend and trusted him as your friend. This isn’t fair.
Tip #5: Continue to validate and be sympathetic, but don’t be afraid to say something truthful gently.
Joe: Yeah. I always get treated like this. I’m so worthless. I don’t deserve to live.
You: Feeling worthless is awful. It makes you feel like you don’t deserve to live, though you’ve been strong enough thus far to reach out for help. That’s really brave.
Tip #6: Never directly challenge what they believe in or say their beliefs are “not true.”
Joe: But it’s true. I don’t deserve to live. No one likes me.
Don’t say this: That’s not true. You do deserve to live. You have people on this server that like you.
Try this instead: Sucks that you feel like you don’t deserve to live. Do you have anything that YOU like, such as video games, art, memes?
Tip #7: You don’t need to have the answers. Having the solution is impossible. You only need to be an open, listening ear.
Joe: Yeah, I like CSGO, but I don’t even feel like playing that right now. Nothing matters. I don’t matter.
You: There are some people here that you might be able to meet to play CSGO with, you know, to help take your mind off of things. Nothing I can do or say can honestly take away the pain of betrayal from your girlfriend or friend, but I am open to listening to you vent if you need it. Or, if there is anything else I can do for you, please let me know.
This is the base concept of being a Listener. Offer sympathy and validation and give advice where you can.
Be wary of directly challenging their beliefs (since it can turn into an argument and make things worse). It’s okay to be honest when you don’t have all the answers. Encourage them to talk and ask questions where you can. Getting them to talk it out is help enough.