Become a Helpline Volunteer
Our free, eating disorder helpline is operated by volunteers who are trained to connect callers with resources and provide general support. ANAD Helpline volunteers are recovered individuals with lived experience of an eating disorder, and/or those who are passionate about eating disorder recovery. As a volunteer, you will receive comprehensive training that will empower you, expand your knowledge of eating disorders and body image concerns, and provide an incredible learning opportunity.
Helpline volunteers are often the first step in helping people begin their recovery, or providing information to loved ones. Volunteers connect with callers in a compassionate and caring manner, provide basic information, treatment options, additional resources, and support. The ANAD helpline is NOT a crisis line. It exists to provide resources and support to those with questions about recovery or who need a few words of support.
Volunteer Position Overview
Helpline volunteers are often the first step in helping people begin their recovery, or provide information to loved ones. ANAD trains and supervises volunteers so that they have help every step of the way. All Helpline volunteers must complete required ANAD volunteer training. Volunteers commit to 6 months of service at a time.
Helpline volunteers have the following responsibilities:
- Respond to calls during each designated 4-hour shift (typically 2-3/month)
- Document calls using provided form
- Attend monthly supervision calls; participate in online discussions
Helpline Volunteer Eligibility
- Sign the Agreement
- Join the Helpline Schedule!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, the Helpline is a remote online phone service that can be accessed from any computer or mobile device.
People calling our Helpline come from a variety of perspectives. About half are concerned about their own behavior; the other half are family and friends worried about their loved ones, people looking for support in long-term recovery, social service professionals hoping to assist clients, and more! The ANAD Helpline is open to anyone with questions about eating disorder recovery.
In addition to answering calls, you will be asked to document basic information in a google form during each call. If a referral is requested, you will collect information to pass along to our Referral Services researchers.
Depending on the caller, our Helpline volunteers provide callers with basic information about eating disorders, emotional support, and assurance that referrals will be sent out within 5-7 business days. Our Helpline is a “warm line” in that we do not handle crisis situations, but we provide space for people who are struggling and need understanding and compassion.
ANAD currently launches volunteers into service in February and August of each year. Depending on when you apply, it may be several weeks before you begin training and then launch into service. However, it is definitely worth the wait!
Each Helpline volunteer is assigned to 2-3 shifts per month. Each shift lasts 4 hours.
ANAD provides ongoing support to all volunteers through our trained volunteer team leaders. These are experienced volunteers who will be available to you for crisis situations, monthly supervision calls and discussions on Slack (our volunteer engagement platform). Additionally, the Programs team will be available as needed.
See What is Recovery. You are recovered enough if you have the ability to maintain or work towards a healthy weight, control over eating disorder thoughts and behaviors, ability to identify situations of personal risk, and have self-care strategies in place to manage your own well-being. Self-care strategies include seeing a therapist, participating in a support group, as well as other personal practices.
- Recovery is not linear – there are lapses and that is expected. No one expects perfection. The key is to recognize issues, get back on target and ask for help.
- ANAD requires that there be 2 years of recovery before volunteering to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
Here is a checklist we suggest (Adapted from Caswell & Logie, Reaching Out for Hope republished NEDC Stories from Experience Module 8, 2015):
- Can I talk about my experience of eating difficulties and the struggles I have been through without being distressed? Can I reflect on difficult times and still be available and present for other people?
- Is my physical health stable at the moment?
- Have I learned from my experience of illness and can I speak about the process of recovery and why it was worth it? Am I open to learning new skills like how to effectively facilitate a group and work in a safe way?
- Do I have the time, energy and availability to participate in training, group sessions and debriefing?
- Do I have a support network and self-care strategies in place? Have I demonstrated in the past that I will use these when I need them?
- Do I know my own indicators of risk? Am I able to ask for help or withdraw from the group when I am at risk?
- Am I comfortable with the fact that there is no ‘one size fits all’ way to recover from an eating disorder and that everyone needs to change at their own pace and in their own way? Can I avoid comparisons of ED experiences? Am I comfortable with the idea that recovery is always possible while still acknowledging that the process is often difficult and distressing?
- Am I committed to taking care of myself?
Your support makes a difference.
ANAD is a donation-based recovery community. We believe eating disorder support should be affordable and accessible to all. To continue offering our services for free to those who need it, we rely on donations from those who can afford them. Please consider supporting our mission.