A well-developed and purpose-filled volunteer training program can make the supervising and evaluation procedures easier for you in the long run. If you make clear, from the beginning, what is expected in the counseling room in terms of objective skills and observable behaviors, then following up with volunteers and holding them accountable to the training is much easier.
By the end of training (both basic training & on-the-job training) volunteers should clearly know what is expected of them in these basic areas:
- Knowledge of and ability to use the correct counseling skills, most importantly with an abortion-vulnerable client (The Seven Fundamentals)
- Office flow through
- Follow up and documentation procedures
- Community & Center resources
Questions to ask yourself about your training?
- Are the counseling skills clearly identified? Do volunteers know (behaviorally) what is expected? Is everyone counseling/advocating from the same identified qualities (HUGE) and using the same set of skills (RIGHT)?
- Are there clearly written and defined criteria and checklists?
- Does your volunteer training manual/materials have a clearly defined set of objective skills, attitudes and information for which advocates will be held responsible?
- Do you have flow through charts and checklists that staff and volunteers can refer to when needed?
- Do you have examples of good and bad documentation and written follow up procedures?
- Do you have a community resource binder or filing system with descriptions of services and possibly the name of a contact person at all the agencies to which you refer clients?
On-The-Job Training and Supervision
On-the-job training (OTJ) is the group and/or one-on-one training that helps volunteers make the transition from the classroom to the counseling room. Supervising comprises a variety of day-to-day, week-to-week activities in order to make sure that the policies and procedures of your Center are being followed and that client advocates are utilizing the skills and guidelines taught in your training.
Who Does These Jobs?
In order to be successful there has to be staff member(s) who are given the time and job description for on-the-job training, supervising and evaluating volunteers. OTJ and supervision rarely happens if the job is given to a staff member who is already overworked and, in reality, does not have the time.
We have all seen the videos of very poor counseling sessions at Pregnancy Centers on You Tube. It saddens me that such behavior would be allowed in the counseling room and that many Centers, in reality, have no idea what is actually happening in their counseling rooms.
In the best scenario, each Center would have a trainer on staff who teaches the basic training and the on-the-job training. Who better to follow through with her trainees than the person who has spent countless hours with them during the basic training? The trainer will know each of their strengths and weaknesses and has usually built the relationship with the trainees that will allow for easier role-play and further tutoring on the advocates strengths and weaknesses.
When the advocates have completed the on-the-job training and are evaluated as ready for advocacy, they are handed over to the Client Services Director who will follow through with the supervision and evaluation. This would require teamwork and communication between the trainer and Client Services Director with a clear understanding of what has already been taught and the skills for which the advocates will continue to be held accountable. Both positions must have excellent counseling, and teaching skills.
Ongoing Supervising Activities
- Reviewing charts and especially the written documentation of what transpired in the counseling session.
- Processing with advocates after they see clients during their first few months in their advocate role.
- Observation of advocates performing their day-to-day office and follow up duties
- Listening to how advocates talk about their client interactions
- Be aware of language like:
- “I couldn’t get her to . . .”
- “She wouldn’t . . .”
- “I told her to . . .”
- Be aware of language like:
Evaluating Client Advocates is an activity that usually takes place once a year with each Client Advocate. Supervising and evaluating client advocates can clearly help in the quality of their interaction with clients and keep your Center safe from ever showing up on one of those You Tube videos.
Ideas for Conducting a Client Advocate Counseling Evaluation
- Make an evaluation appointment for a specific time and tell the counselor what will happen during the evaluation.
- They will be doing a role-play with you
- They will be evaluated on their use of the the Seven Fundamentals (or whatever other training you use.)
- Their strengths and weaknesses will be evaluated, discussed and a plan formed that will identify and draw on their strengths and improve their weaknesses.
- They will have an opportunity to give feedback about what they need as an advocate and share ideas of how we might improve the volunteer training program.
- Set aside at least an hour for the evaluation
- Role-play a situation as realistic as possible, not making it too hard for the advocate. The evaluator is the client. Try to play someone close to your own age and situation instead of trying to play a client who is very different from yourself. This will make the role-play more authentic and you can more easily pay attention to the advocates use of the skills.
- At the end of the role-play lay out the list of the Seven Fundamentals (page 31), or other list of skills from whatever training you are using, and discuss the skills in light of the role-play. Keep the discussion skill focused and not outcome focused. It is most important to focus on the use of the RIGHT listening skills (especially RIG) and how well they climbed the Steps to Crisis Intervention. Discuss each fundamental in turn, asking questions of the advocate and giving helpful feedback where needed
- Write down a list of strengths and weaknesses and together devise a plan for improving the weaknesses and drawing on the strengths.
- Ask, “Now that you have been advocating for a while, what do you know now that you wish you knew before you starting working with clients?” This is a great question to explore the strengths and weaknesses of your volunteer training program. Give advocates a chance to give you feedback about the volunteer program and accept their feedback with openness and grace.
- Document what was seen and discussed and what the plans are for improvement and place it in their HR file.
- Document any ideas gleaned from them about the volunteer program or training and give them to the appropriate personnel or in your own “Needs Improvement” file