Making Outreach Calls

This page has been written by ITAA’s Web Content Committee and has not been formally approved by the fellowship as a whole. If you would like to share feedback or contribute to our efforts, we would love to hear from you and we encourage you to join one of our meetings! More details can be found on the Service Committees page.

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, for example, 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 for example 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.

Safety in Outreach Calls

The vast majority of outreach calls are great, useful, supporting experiences for both parties. However, there is a chance you could experience a negative interaction. It is vital that Twelve-Step programs are safe spaces for all. They ought not be used to find dating partners or to use others for manipulative or predatory purposes. Comments of an explicit nature are inappropriate and flirtation is discouraged. If you feel like someone has crossed a line or broken one of the boundaries listed below, ask for support from other members or report your experiences to your group leaders. Please protect your own needs, privacy, and safety. That includes the following things:

  • You are never obliged to pick up a call when you don’t want to, even with familiar members.
  • If anyone asks for a video call and this makes you feel uncomfortable, do not hesitate to decline the request. We do not recommend unsolicited video calls without first building rapport with a person. Video calls aren’t necessary for supportive conversations.
  • To protect your privacy on messaging apps, we encourage you to display your first name only. On WhatsApp, you can also change privacy settings so that your profile photo is only visible to saved contacts.
  • Determine and politely state your own boundaries. 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 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. “Sorry to interrupt you but I need to wrap up this conversation now” is a fine way to do that. Clearly stating time boundaries at the beginning of a call can help (for example, a ten minute limit).
  • If outreach with a person is affecting your recovery in a negative way, we encourage you to communicate your boundaries. You are also free to decline, ignore, or block their calls and messages at any time.
  • You do not have to carry the burden of being someone’s savior or Higher Power. You are not there to solve other people’s problems, and you carry no responsibility for other people’s actions. If you feel unable to hold space for what someone is sharing you could express this to them, for example: “Thank you for sharing, I hear you. I need to let you know that I feel I am at my emotional capacity and I don’t feel able to hold space for discussing this topic further.”
  • Outreach calls are not a one-way monologue or an excuse for dumping. Both parties should have the opportunity to share.
  • Respecting the privacy and anonymity of the other person creates a safe space for sharing. It is only appropriate to break anonymity and share details with another trusted member when someone is a risk to other fellows.
  • Don’t ask about identifying details that are not relevant to the call or pressure others into divulging information about themselves that they may want to keep private.

Recognizing misconduct and what to do

Our members have the right to feel safe in meetings, outreach, and service. Abuse and exploitation, in any form, are not tolerated in ITAA. Contact your group leaders if you experience any of the following:

  • Promises of shelter, sponsorship, money, food, or other kindnesses in exchange for a romantic or sexual relationship. 
  • Imposed or constant flattery, often immediately followed by imposed judgment or negative opinions. 
  • Encroachment of physical or personal space, especially after a verbal request to maintain space. This may include someone insisting you to show your room/house virtually.
  • Comments or questions of a sexual or flirtatious nature directed towards other members.
  • Asking for personal information that’s not relevant to recovery from internet addiction, such as where someone lives, their age, their profession, etc., especially before building rapport with them. 
  • Discrimination on the basis of race, disability, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, age, socio-economic status, appearance, etc.
  • Stalking, which includes unwanted attention, repeatedly messaging, calling, or looking up information about the other person online.
  • Intimidation, threats, or bullying.
  • Pressuring other members to agree with certain points of view. 
  • Inappropriate outbursts of anger.
  • Physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse.

Even if you are not the target of such behavior, it’s important to speak up for other members of the group. Maintaining a healthy culture within our program is paramount for everyone’s success in their sobriety. Any person witnessing such an event can take appropriate action to stop such behavior. If you do feel that you’re a target, be firm, communicate your boundaries and talk to the group leaders or another trusted member about your concerns. More information on promoting safety in our fellowship can be found in our Safety in ITAA resource.

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.