A Guide to Outreach Calls in ITAA

What is an outreach call?

Outreach calls are just a way to connect with other ITAA members one on one. They are what you make of them. Outreach calls are a great way to grow your network within ITAA, learn from other members, share your experience, stay connected to the program, receive/provide support in tough moments, and remember that you are not alone.

People have many different reasons for asking for outreach. Some of them are:

  • they find themselves in a difficult moment or even on the brink of relapse and are looking for connection instead of acting out
  • they are looking for an outside perspective or advice on a situation they encountered or a specific step they are working on
  • they are “bookending” an activity by voicing an intention to another member out loud (“I will research XY for 20 minutes, and then close my laptop”) and possibly following up afterward
  • nothing happened at that moment, but they do outreach more like a “regular task” that keeps them connected to the program – many people find it useful to commit to making one (or more) outreach calls every day regardless of the circumstances

Often, when people are new to making outreach calls, they worry about “being a burden” – you needn’t worry. When you ask for outreach, you can rest assured that the other person is getting as much (if not more) out of the call as you are. You never know what they are going through right now and how receiving an outreach call might help them. Giving and receiving outreach calls strengthens both parties.

Outreach Call Etiquette

Outreach calls come in a wide variety of formats – there is no right or wrong way to do them. Simply ask for what you need at that moment. 

Some common outreach call formats are:

  • 3/3 (or 4/4, etc): both parties speak for 3 (4…) minutes each, one after the other, similar to if you’d be sharing in a meeting. Sometimes people explicitly set a timer and give a 1-minute or so warning. 
  • 3/3 with feedback: both parties speak for 3 minutes each, but “crosstalk” is invited and the shares get followed by a period of reflection/feedback/question asking 
  • “open” calls: like a regular conversation, you just talk and see where that takes you!
  • “themed” outreach call: a person might have a specific goal, e.g. receive advice on an amend they are thinking about making, speak a shared prayer, ask for advice on a specific step, etc

None of these formats are better or worse than others, they are just different and you might find yourself preferring some over others in different situations. In your outreach request, you can be specific about what you are looking for – that context helps other fellows to see e.g. whether they have enough open time right now to respond.

Some good etiquette to keep in mind:

  • It’s a good habit to ask about the time limits the other person has (do they have 5? 15? 45 minutes?) at the beginning of an outreach call, to use that to set some context
  • Be aware of time zones / personal preferences. Some members prefer you to text them before calling, others prefer to just receive a call as long as it’s before a certain time of the night. Most people will state their preferences and timezone when giving out their number, but it never hurts to check.
  • It’s usually a good idea to ask whether someone is open to feedback or advice before giving either. Maybe the person just wanted to share and be heard. “Would you prefer I just listen, or would you prefer I give feedback?” / “Are you open to hearing how your share resonates with me?” or similar questions can be useful. Respect the other person’s choice.
  • Ending a call or even interrupting someone because you have to go is not rude as long as you do it kindly, it’s an important aspect of you recognizing and honoring your own boundaries and time limitations. 
  • Similarly, try to not take it personally when someone doesn’t pick up or ends a call earlier than you had hoped. They are just trying to take care of their own needs – thank them for communicating their boundaries clearly. If the first person doesn’t pick up, simply try someone else. Over time, gravitate towards the people you can rely on.
  • If you ask for outreach through a public channel like the WhatsApp group, it’s courteous to follow up when you got onto someone so people know you’re good – a quick “Found someone! Thanks!” or similar is plenty enough.
  • When responding to an outreach request on the WhatsApp group, please post that you are responding and then call the person requesting outreach directly. This saves the requester from having to check the thread for responses and lets others know that the request has been answered.

Setting Boundaries

The vast majority of outreach calls are great, useful, supporting experiences for both parties. If you ever do find yourself uncomfortable, please take care of your own needs. That includes the following things:

  • Politely stating your own boundaries and sticking to them is not rude, selfish, or unfriendly – on the contrary. Taking care of your own needs is an important part of building a fellowship where everyone, including you, feels safe and welcome.
  • You are welcome to end a call (even if that means you have to interrupt the other person), whenever you need to. “I’m so glad you called, and I need to wrap up this conversation now” is a fine way to do that. Clearly stating how much time you have at the beginning of the call can help with this.
  • You do not have to carry the burden of being someone’s therapist – you couldn’t. You are no more and no less than who you are – simply another fellow, connecting at that moment. You are not there to solve other people’s problems, and you carry no responsibility for other people’s actions.
  • Outreach calls are not a one-way monologue or an excuse for dumping. Both parties should have the opportunity to share.
  • You are not required to pick up a call when you don’t want to or continue having outreach calls with someone when you’d prefer not to, or when you feel that the outreach is affecting your recovery in a bad way.
  • Respect the privacy of the other person because it creates a safe space for sharing. For example, don’t ask about identifying details that are not relevant to the call, and be aware of not accidentally maneuvering the other person into a position where they feel pressured to reveal personal details.
  • Gravitate towards people who help your recovery along. Over time, associate with people who have what you want, or are working on their addiction. 
  • 12 step programs are meant to be safe spaces for all, which discourages using them as a dating ground. ITAA is a space to find support in recovery, treating it as a place to find potential partners is inappropriate. Flirtatious language can make people uncomfortable. If you feel like someone is crossing a boundary there, you have every right to shut that down and ask for support from other members.

How do I find an outreach call?

There are many avenues to set up outreach calls:

  • There are several ITAA WhatsApp (and Signal, and Slack) groups specifically for asking for outreach. You can post your request there or respond to other people’s requests for outreach.
  • Sometimes members share their phone numbers at the end of meetings. Note them down (and give out your own if you are comfortable) and reach out to those members.
  • There’s an outreach spreadsheet with information from members who are willing to take outreach calls. You can go through that list and contact people from there.
  • You can try and set up regular outreach calls with specific members. Maybe you call the same person on the same day at the same time every week. Maybe you set up a daily call with your sponsor.

Outreach calls can be a powerful aspect of working your recovery. Again, there is no “right or wrong” way to do an outreach call. Simply make a couple and figure it out over time.