Counselor Program

Exhale counselors are people who care deeply about the wellbeing of others and who are motivated to make a meaningful contribution to a more peaceful world. Whether or not a volunteer has a direct experience with abortion, we all understand the power of feeling heard and understood.

If you are seeking:

  • a rewarding volunteer experience where you can develop and practice counseling skills;
  • to connect with real people in a compassionate way;
  • to create a peaceful culture around personal abortion experiences; and
  • to join an innovative organization with a national impact

then the Exhale Peer Counselor Program may be the right place for you!

We provide excellent training, a dynamic community, and a variety of leadership opportunities to those who are accepted into our award-winning program.

Our 60-hour training is offered in the fall and spring in Oakland, California. Volunteers make a 12-month service commitment after the training ends. 

Who volunteers with Exhale, and why should I become an Exhale counselor?

You've got an amazing group of counselors. If Exhale ever gets tired of doing post-abortion work, you could reconfigure your organization and become TalentFinders, and do headhunting. Or hearthunting—your people have such good hearts.

– Community partner

Our volunteers come from all walks of life, and they range in age from teens to seniors. Ethnically and religiously diverse, Exhale volunteers are students, parents, and professionals with full personal lives. As Exhale counselors, they work beside others with shared values and grow as people and changemakers. Our volunteers want to develop or practice counseling skills, they care about public health and mental health, and they enjoy learning about other people. They also appreciate connecting with other individuals attracted to this work, and being a peacemaker in the Pro-Voice movement. Volunteering at Exhale is a great fit for anyone looking to grow, contribute, and connect in these ways.

We are committed to serving the needs of diverse communities so that everyone has a voice after abortion. Our multilingual access model depends on volunteers who speak Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese to make this vision a reality. The leadership of our bilingual volunteers is critical to making Exhale’s commitment to pro-voice practice come to life. Bilingual volunteers can receive a small stipend when they take calls in a language other than English.

Volunteers at Exhale benefit by growing personally and professionally. They have a number of opportunities to contribute to strengthening Exhale and growing the pro-voice movement, and they are celebrated for these contributions. Volunteers have been featured in Exhale's media coverage, receive letters of recommendation for graduate study, character references for career advancement, and gain skills and experiences that are used throughout their lives. Because Exhale grows through the ideas and contributions of our members and volunteers, avenues for leadership at Exhale abound.

What makes a good talkline volunteer?

Exhale creates a space where judgment stops, and in this space, people can share and reflect freely. There is a power in being heard, in speaking without fear of judgment. In finding a space to experience the full range of emotions related to abortion, women are finding a chance to be whole. This is quite simply a wonderful thing to behold.

– Talkline counselor

Our volunteers are passionate about meeting people where they are, hearing their unique experience, and providing the support each one deserves.  A good talkline counselor will share our core values, which include: the principle of empowerment, the spirit of collaboration, a commitment to serving the needs of diverse communities, and a desire to ensure that everyone with a personal abortion experience has a voice.

When considering applicants to our volunteer program, we look for strong listening skills, empathy and compassion, a commitment to wellbeing, and an interest in being a part of a conversation about abortion that prioritizes the health and wellbeing of women and their families. We seek applicants who are ready to embrace a challenge, learn, and grow. Successful applicants take responsibility for meeting their own goals and are looking for ways to contribute that are suited to their interests and strengths.

How long is the training and what is covered?

Exhale's training was one of the best I have ever experienced. When the training was over, I was nervous but ready to handle my first call... My work with Exhale helped me solidify my decision to pursue clinical psychology as a career and prepared me for doing face-to-face therapy in my doctoral program.

– Talkline counselor

Volunteers take part in a 60-hour training. Sessions meet on select Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and Saturdays. Topics covered include the sociocultural context of abortion in the United States, personal values exploration, how sociopolitical dynamics impact individual abortion experiences, peer counseling skills, male gender socialization, a clinic field trip, role plays, guest speakers on suicide, domestic violence and sexual assault, after-abortion referrals and resources, multilingual access, and more.

The training is comprehensive and in-depth, and an excellent preparation for counseling on the after-abortion talkline. Volunteers have told us that they value the camaraderie and closeness that develops among participants, a bond that is typically sustained and enjoyed throughout their time at Exhale.

What is the volunteer commitment after training?

Counselors agree to volunteer for one year after training ends. During that time they take about two shifts a week which are each two to three hours long. Exhale staff works with volunteers to make this schedule manageable. In fact, many counselors choose to continue volunteering after their formal commitment ends. The shifts are completed in your own home. The calls are routed through an answering service, so your phone number and location are kept private. Counselors need no special equipment besides a working phone and a quiet place to listen and talk.

Leadership Opportunities

Taking a formal leadership role made Pro-Voice a very tangible thing I can talk to people about, and it helped me articulate what is different about this approach. The fact that we were trusted, as volunteers, and empowered to have really major responsibilities really exemplified having ownership, which is such a big part of what the Pro-Voice experience means to me.

– Volunteer leader

Opportunities for personal and professional growth abound here. Exhale counselors have many ways to contribute to spreading the Pro-Voice mission, from social media interaction, to guest blog posts, to hands-on experience in program development, fundraising and communications, administration, leadership, movement-building, and as spokespeople for Exhale. Exhale is an organization that thrives because of the community of people who invest their time and creativity. Talkline counselors are some of the most active members of our community.

I'm interested in applying to the counselor program. What next?

Please complete an application. Once we receive your application, our staff will contact you with more information about the next training dates and further details on the application process. We appreciate your interest in joining our program.

Exhale is a 501(c)3 organization (EIN/tax ID: 94-3393719)