Background: In order to respond to crises with appropriate intervention, crisis workers are required to manage their own needs as well as the needs of those they respond to. Aims: A systematic review of the literature was conducted to examine whether telephone crisis support workers experience elevated symptoms of psychological distress and are impaired by elevated symptoms.
Method: Studies were identified in April 2015 by searching three databases, conducting a gray literature search, and forward and backward citation chaining.
Results: Of 113 identified studies, seven were included in the review. Results suggest that that telephone crisis support workers experience symptoms of vicarious traumatization, stress, burnout, and psychiatric disorders, and that they may not respond optimally to callers when experiencing elevated symptoms of distress. However, definitive conclusions cannot be drawn due to the paucity and methodological limitations of available data.
Limitations: While the most comprehensive search strategy possible was adopted, resource constraints meant that conference abstracts were not searched and authors were not contacted for additional unpublished information.
Conclusion: There is an urgent need to identify the impact of telephone crisis support workers’ role on their well-being, the determinants of worker well-being in the telephone crisis support context, and the extent to which well-being impacts their performance and caller outcomes. This will help inform strategies to optimize telephone crisis support workers’ well-being and their delivery of support to callers.