Fesat European Foundation of Drug Helpines
Contact us
Vanderlindenstraat 15
1030 Brussels, Belgium

What is

  • is a network which currently joins together about 50 European drug helpline services
  • has a charter setting out the ethical principles to which all members of the Foundation adhere
  • has representatives from the Member States of the European Union on its Board ,who are experts in drug helpline work

Meeting in Sofia on Helpline Skills and Risk of Burn Out

The first Transnational Learning Exchange Partner Meeting was held on June 19th and 20th 2017 in Sofia, Bulgaria. All nine partner services were in attendance, as well as an invited speaker from the UK. The topic on the agenda: "Helpline Skills for new workers, experienced workers and Burn-Out prevention". We are very hopelful that the meeting will lead to an inspiring curriculum to address these chalenges in Drug Helpline teams. 


SKEPDAH stands for Skills and Knowledge Exchange Project for Drug and Alcohol Helplines. It is a so-called KA2 Strategic Partnership under the Erasmus+ program running from January 2017 to August 2018. During this project eight Eight Drug and Alcohol Helplines involved in FESAT (representing Ireland, Belgium, Bulgaria, Portugal, Cyprus, Norway, The Netherlands and Germany) and a British training institute will have transnational meetings to exchange know-how and skills. The project focusses on three topics that are currently challenging Drug Helpline workers throughout Europe: helpline skills and risk of burn out; dealing with NPS (New Psychoactive Substances) and managing Dual Diagnoses at the Helpline. The meetings and exchanges will lead to curriculae on each of these topics that will hopefully inspire others beyond the project to integrate them in their lifelong learning activities. 

Focussing on Burn-out

When SKEPDAH started earlier this year the partners' learning needs and desired outcomes for the project were gathered via online surveys. Those data as well as the exchange during the first day of the meeting revealed that, even though it is always benificial to revisit core Helpline skills, the prevention of Burn-out in the Drug and Alcohol Helplines was the main priority for most partners.
Based on her work in the Self Injury Support Helpline, Sall Ball made a presentation on the needs and resources to be covered in training on Burn out prevention. Needless to say that in such a Helpline setting topics like a good assessment and training of helpline operators and clear boundaries are crucial. 

Exchange and resources

A learning exchange meeting is of course all about exchange. The partners had lots of opportunities for input from their own Helpline background and there were useful discussions both plenary as is smaller groups. As the meeting went along the value of aspects like team work, supervision, peer support, self-care were highlighted. Wether the particpants were coming from Cyprus, Norway, Ireland or Bulgaria, is was clear to all that operating a Drug or Alcohol Helpline is working in a demanding setting where emotional stress, risk of vicarious trauma and burn out are a reality. 

Apart from the input all head from their own workfloor and experience, the partners invested a lot of effort in looking useful external resources. Via Trello, an online project management platform that the SKEPDAH partnership relies on, more than 20 resources were gathered before, during and after the Sofia meeting. Together these will provide input and inspiration for the future work on this topic.

Sofia Group 

What's next?

The focus of the Transnational Meeting is to create a curriculum that outlines the key elements that should be included in ongoing training and development on the topic of Burn-out in Drug Helpline work. This curriculum will be based on defined learning outcomes that the partners agreed upon earlier in the project. At this point a draft version of the curriculum has been prepared. After some futher completing, some partners (eg. RUStelefonen and De DrugLijn) will try to implement it in their own helpline. Their feedback and learnings will allow the partnership to fine-tune the curriculum in order to come to a final version which will be disseminated and made available online by the end of the SKEPDAH project.


"I really valued the chance to meet with and compare notes with colleagues from so many different countries and configurations of Helplines."
- a participant to the meeting in Sofia 

Read more about this meeting and download the full report here.  

  Erasmus+ logo

« Back


or Sign Up »

The FESAT website has been funded by the Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security of the European Commission.
The content of this website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
© 2008 FESAT All rights reserved.