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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The characteristics of chronic callers to telephone crisis centres Kramer, Richard Frank


The characteristics that identify chronic callers to telephone crisis centres were investigated. The telephone workers from four crisis lines identified and recruited subjects. Eight chronic callers were interviewed by telephone. Subjects participated in a structured interview, responding to questions on their experiences with crisis lines, contacts with other community services, their support network of friends and family, their mental health and substance use, and major events in their family history. Subjects telephoned from three to five times a month to four times a day. They had been telephoning crisis lines from 6 months to over 13 years. They usually telephoned two or three different crisis lines regularly. Qualitative analysis of the interview data consisted of three concurrent activities: data reduction, data display, and drawing/verifying conclusions. Analysis identified 17 chronic caller characteristics common to most subjects: 5 personal characteristics, 5 involving relationships and their support network, 3 relating to their family background, and 4 concerning their experience with counselling, therapy or other treatment. Support, contact, esteem-building, friendliness and the telephone volunteers emerged as positive characteristics from the subjects' experiences with crisis lines. Poor "business" practice, call management and "labelled" callers emerged as negative characteristics from the subjects' experiences of crisis lines. Callers also displayed eight characteristics distinguishing lower frequency from higher frequency chronic callers based on the frequency of telephoning. Three characteristics involved the callers' relationship to the crisis lines; one regarded their therapeutic history; and four concerned family history or special others. Four global themes - victimization, esteem, isolation, and connection - emerged across all callers for the information they shared. The results point to the subjects' personal, family and therapeutic histories feeding into a dynamic of ongoing contact with crisis lines. The callers' increased use of crisis lines accentuates the mismatch between chronic caller characteristics and the crisis lines' goal of crisis intervention. Telephone crisis centres are left to consider different methods of managing chronic callers and how to better work with those higher frequency chronic callers turning to the crisis lines as a therapeutic resource.

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