Background: Empathic engagement with distressed others can lead to elevated symptoms of psychological distress and functional impairment, which preclude helping professionals' delivery of optimal patient care. Whether telephone crisis support workers are impacted in a similar way is not currently reported in the literature.
Aims: This study examined the relationship between functional impairment and intentions to use recommended support skills in a representative national sample of 210 telephone crisis support workers.
Method: Participants completed an online survey including measures of functional impairment and intentions to use recommended telephone crisis support skills with callers reporting suicidal ideation, symptoms of depression, and anxiety.
Results: As a group, participants who experienced greater functional impairment during the past month reported significantly lower intentions to use recommended support skills with callers than those who reported lower functional impairment.
Limitations: Future research is needed to clarify the extent to which results generalize to telephone crisis support workers from other organizations.
Conclusion: Results warrant further research to (a) identify determinants of telephone crisis support workers' functional impairment, and (b) for the deliberate management of telephone crisis support workers' functional impairment through developing and/or modifying existing service strategies to optimize workers' psychological well-being and delivery of support to callers.