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Become a Lifeline Support Worker
We're behind you all the way with training and give you the support you need to volunteer on the Lifeline.

Being there for someone who is trusting you with their vulnerability and experiences is a real privilege. While this role is challenging, it can also be immensely rewarding. Giving your time to be there for others is valuable, and learning these active listening skills can benefit your life both personally and professionally. 

We want to be there 24/7 providing support for the English-speaking community so people don’t have to go through whatever they are dealing with alone, and to do that, we need more volunteers. Maybe one of those volunteers could be you!

Do you think you are a good listener? Are you willing to be there for someone, a stranger, and hear what they are going through, without adding your thoughts or opinions? Can you be flexible in your thinking? Can you offer resources or information to support someone, and accept if they don’t want to take those resources from you? Can you remove your personal agenda from the conversation and accept that the person you are talking to is in control? Can you do this for 4 hours at a time without becoming overwhelmed? Can you support people in this way and maintain confidentiality, without discussing it with other people in your life?

If so, then joining TELL as a volunteer Lifeline support worker could be for you.

Training to be a Support Worker

Becoming a lifeline volunteer takes time and commitment. Training is offered 3 times each year, (Spring, Summer, and Autumn courses). From the first day of training to working solo on the Lifeline typically takes 4-5 months.

Each training begins with a 10-week intensive online course teaching active listening skills and how to use them effectively on the Lifeline, (both phone and chat platforms). 
The 10-week program involves the following elements:
  • 3 five-hour mandatory sessions weekend online seminars
    • Offered at 2-3 time slots to allow some flexibility


  • Weekly for 10 weeks:
    • Watch online training videos (1 – 3 hours per week)
    • Complete reading (15 – 40 minutes per week)
    • Write a self-reflective journal
    • Complete role-play practice with a trainer (30 minutes per week)
    • Join an online seminar (2 hours per week) – again offered at flexible times.

The 10-week course covers a variety of active listening skills for the first 3 weeks and then moves on to considering a range of topics, including (but not limited to) depression; grief and loss; cultural adjustment; suicide; sexual violence; domestic abuse; disasters and emergencies; and stress.

In addition to the online course, all trainees are required to complete a practical apprenticeship with the Lifeline. This comprises:


  • 3 four-hour shifts shadowing an experienced volunteer (12 hours);
  • Successful completion of 4 longer role plays covering the topics of suicide; sexual violence; domestic abuse; and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Minimum of 3 four-hour supervised shifts (12+ hours).

Following successful completion of the course, you would be awarded a certificate* stating that you have completed all the required elements of TELL’s Support Worker training and we believe that you have the necessary skills and qualities to be a Lifeline volunteer with TELL. 

*(However, this does not qualify you to work on other services without training  or to provide professional counselling services ).

You can find answers to many questions about applications and the training below, but if you have any other questions or you need further information, please feel free to contact the Training Team at [email protected].

2024/2025 Training Courses

Summer 2024: Initial Online Course May 18th, 2024 – August 4th, 2024
Mandatory weekend sessions: 1/3: either May 18th or 19th ; 2/3: either June 29th or 30th; 3/3: either August 3rd or 4th
Autumn 2024: Initial online course September 28th – December 15th
Mandatory weekend sessions: September 28th or 29th, November 9th or 10th, December 14th or 15th
Spring 2025: Initial online course  February 8th – April 27th
Mandatory weekend sessions: February 8th or 9th, March 22nd or 23rd, April 26th or 27th

Support Worker Training Application Form

Apply to be a TELL Lifeline Support Worker by filling out the application form below. This information will be confidential and seen only by the TELL Lifeline training team. Typically we respond to training applications within a few days. If you do not hear back from us within 2 weeks, please email us at [email protected].

Lifeline Support Worker Training FAQ

Lifeline support workers are there to listen to the service users, whoever they might be and whatever they might want to talk about, (within some boundaries). You would be using the skills to listen to someone’s experience, try to understand what this experience means to them, and following the user’s lead concerning their priorities, what they want to do today or what they think they could do, alongside confirming their immediate safety. You would not be giving advice or sharing your opinions, personal experiences or being a friend.

TELL Lifeline is a generalist line, people can contact us about anything and everything, whether that is to be connected to information and resources or to talk about what they are going through, whatever that might be.

  • Being over 18 years of age 
  • Having an excellent command of English
  • Computer and reliable internet access necessary for training, and later to take shifts
  • A private space where you would not be overheard or interrupted during shifts to protect the confidentiality of the service

There is no exhaustive list of characteristics that make a perfect support worker. However, some things that can be helpful are:

    • Empathy – can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes?
    • Flexibility in your thinking
    • Comfort with uncertainty  – being on a lifeline, you have no control over what you will be asked to talk about each shift
    • Basic competence with IT
    • Self awareness
    • Open and nonjudgmental attitude
  • During the 10 week online course: 8-10 hours of work per week
  • During the second half of the course: Additional time to work on longer role play practice and supervised shifts
  • We ask for a minimum commitment of 12 months post graduation from training.
  • For as long as you remain a Lifeline volunteer, there is a general expectation to commit 10 hours per month, (two 4-hour shifts on the lifeline and to join a 2-hour supervisory meeting).
  • After you submit your application form, if your application meets our criteria, you would be invited for an interview. After the interview, if you are successful, you would be invited to join the next available training course.

If you are not living in Japan, and have no plans to be in Japan in the near future, then unfortunately we cannot accept your application.

There is a fee for the training of 35,000 yen.

Typically we ask people to pay by the first day of training but if this presents a problem, please let us know and the Training Team will be happy to discuss your options.

Yes, it is possible to break the payment down into installments. Again, please discuss your payment plan with the Training Team.

We understand that we are charging a fee to train for volunteer work, and that this may seem strange. We do this because we are a non-profit organization, and we must meet all costs incurred while running the training. The training does not generate any profits; it only meets part of its own associated costs. There are many volunteering opportunities that people can participate in instantly or with minimal training, but a crisis line support worker is not one of these roles. The safety of our service users is paramount and so we are asking volunteers to pay for the course to equip them with the skills they need to take shifts effectively.

We also feel confident that the quality of the training is high and that it can provide participants with important personal learning and skills development. This fee is also quite reasonable compared to prices for similar educational or skills courses that could be taken, either here in Japan or in other countries.

While there are costs involved in running the training three times each year, we do not want the fee to present the sole barrier to anyone being able to participate. If your circumstances do not allow you to make this payment at this time, please discuss this with the Training Team.

The English speaking population is still relatively small, so we ask that you keep your involvement as a support worker, (even from the point of application), a secret from anyone who absolutely does not need to know. Our goal is not to imply there is shame or stigma in seeking support from a lifeline, rather to remove discomfort or inhibition from those who might want to interact with the service and who may be concerned someone they know will hear about their conversations.

  • Personal and professional growth
  • Giving back to your community
  • Ongoing support in your work with Lifeline
  • Learning new skills and experiencing new things
  • Meeting new people and making new friends
  • Belonging to the TELL community
  • Training and development opportunities
  • Knowing that by volunteering you are making a real difference!

We take our responsibilities to our volunteers seriously. To be present with our service users and listen to potentially very emotionally challenging issues can take a toll on our volunteers. If you become a Lifeline volunteer, you would be required to join an online supervisory meeting each month where you would be able to talk over your recent experiences as a volunteer with experienced support workers. This is an important part of ongoing learning, but also a vital outlet for you and other volunteers to process your emotions and experiences. Volunteering should not be something that negatively affects your wellbeing.

In addition to these meetings, you would also be able to connect with Lifeline staff and your supervisors on an as needed basis. You are not taking on this responsibility alone.

Still Not Sure About Becoming a Lifeline Support Worker?

You can find answers to many questions about applications and the training below, but if you have any other questions or you need further information, please feel free to contact the Training Team at supportworkerapp@telljp.com. Click here to learn about other volunteer opportunities.