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Samaritan interns offer help and hope

UMass Dartmouth and Bridgewater State University students are offering hope while learning to help as interns for the Samaritans of FR/NB.

A mostly volunteer organization, the Samaritans offer support and compassionate listening to anyone who needs it, but are best known for their support of people considering suicide.

Each year about a dozen university students from the psychology and social work departments of the two universities are selected to be interns for the organization.

After many training sessions, about 35 hours worth, and guidance on how to answer the Samaritan call lines, the students work directly with callers, offering a support known as befriending, according to Darcy Lee, Samaritan executive director.

Befriending, she said, “is not being someone’s friend, it’s not being a counselor, it’s not giving advice.”

It’s listening without judgement, compassionately, with caring but also with confidentiality.

“You don’t have to be suicidal to call, but you should have the knowledge that nobody is going to judge you and nobody is going to tell,” said Lee.

To do it well, interns learn to mostly listen - about 90% of a call should be listening, according to Lee, and only 10% should be talking.

Having the students on the phone lines helps the organization fulfill its mission, but the undergrads gain a lot too.

“Befriending and listening is so important to what they’re going to be doing, whether they choose a career as a clinician as a social worker, or even if they go on to be a professor at a university, listening is a key skill in their profession,” said Lee.

“They get the experience of talking to all different types of people who have an array of different reasons that they are calling,” she said.

Students at UMass Dartmouth who might be interested in the program should contact psychology professor Joshua Masse. At Bridgewater State University, students should contact Fran Barth, internship coordinator.

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