A few weeks ago, I wrote an article discussing the problems with obtaining mental health care without insurance. One of the suggestions I included was using an online community, such as 7 Cups of Tea, for additional support when needed.
While this site has become fairly well known, I know many people who still are not aware of it or who do not know what an amazing resource it can be. The goal of this blog article, therefore, is to introduce readers to 7 Cups of Tea as well as provide an inside view of the site from a psychologist’s perspective.
My Introduction to 7 Cups of Tea
I completed my pre-doctoral internship with an APA accredited program. As part of the internship requirements, the consortium provided monthly didactics training on a variety of topics. One such didactics training included a presentation titled Integrating Psychology and Technology: Entrepreneurship, Risk, and Good Fortune.
During this presentation, we were introduced to 7 Cups of Tea. The presentation was given by the founder and CEO, Dr. Glen Moriarty, who is also an alumnus of the school from which many interns (including myself) were getting ready to graduate. Glen described how the idea for 7 Cups of Tea originated — a conversation between him and his wife about how sometimes people just need someone to listen.
While I was interested in the idea of 7 Cups of Tea, I was not instantly drawn to it. After all, why would I want to work after leaving work?
So I stayed focused on completing my internship and doctoral project and then, once residency started, the EPPP. However, over the next year and five months, Glen’s presentation remained in the back of my mind. After I passed the EPPP in April of this year, I found myself incredibly bored and unable to really fill my free time. It was then that I checked out 7 Cups of Tea again and ended up joining. I became a listener on April 29, 2015, and now want to share my experience with others.
When I joined 7 Cups of Tea, I was in awe – maybe even a bit overwhelmed. There is so much information provided for listeners, members, and guests alike as well as so many different ways in which members and guests can receive support. I kept thinking, “Will I ever figure out how this thing works?”
Before I go into detail about how it all works, let me give you a brief overview of 7 Cups of Tea. According to the developer, 7 Cups of Tea is an “online emotional support service.” It allows members and guests to anonymously connect with trained listeners in order to gain support for everyday issues, including mental health. There are many different options for support: individual listeners (called 1-1 chats), group chat rooms, forums, and a feed feature that allows everyone to share easily.
When I first joined, I thought I’d participate in a chat or two every few days. And, for a while, I did. But as I completed more of the training modules, earned badges, and explored the site, I got more excited about being involved. 7 Cups of Tea provides support to so many people each week that once I started, I never looked back.
ARE YOU AN ASPIRING THERAPIST? READ THIS.
Ways to Get Involved
Once I completed a few chats, I ventured into one of the listener rooms and learned just how much more I could do. Here are just some of the many ways a listener can be involved on 7 Cups of Tea:
- Take the Listener Oath: Commit to helping others on 7 Cups!
- Training: There are currently 42 interactive training courses. These courses include trainings such as Active Listening, ACT, Boundaries, Cultural Diversity, Work Related Stress, Bullying, Self-Harm, Sleeping Well, and a variety of symptom-specific courses.
- Begin Taking 1-1 Chats: These chats are with people who have come to the site seeking emotional support. Listeners are not allowed to give advice but use active listening skills to validate the member/guest’s concerns, provide support, and help them explore what is going on in their life.
- Listener Chatrooms: There are two Listener chatrooms: the Listener Support Room and the Listener Community Room. The Listener Support Room is meant to focus on asking and answering questions related to listening and 7 Cups of Tea in general. The Listener Community Room is meant for lighthearted chat and socializing — however, providing personal contact information (including social media handles) is not allowed.
- Support Chatrooms: After a listener has completed 10 one-to-one chats with members/guests, they are able to access the member/guest support chatrooms. There are currently 16 chatrooms: Anxiety Support, Compassion Corner, two Depression Support chatrooms, Disability Support, Family Support, LGBTQ+ Support, Member Community Room, Mindfulness, Relationship Support, Share Your Story, Thinking Space, and four Teen chatrooms. Listeners jump in and help the discussion stay productive and supportive.
- Guided Discussions: Guided discussions are held on various topics including Stress, Empathy, Depression, Anxiety, Gender Identity, Domestic Violence Awareness, and icebreaker discussions designed to help listeners get to know one another.
- Welcoming Committees: There’s a Welcoming Committee for Listeners and one for Members. These teams make contact with new listeners and members in order to provide a warm welcome to 7 Cups of Tea and make sure they are plugged in with the resources they need.
- Appreciation Committee: This team works to recognize other listeners and their accomplishments. They highlight things such as positive reviews, badges earned, and general involvement in the community.
- Social Soldiers Team: This team helps to spread the word about 7 Cups of Tea using a social media handle related to their 7 Cups of Tea account. There are currently teams for Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr.
- Forum Support Team: Members of this team can jump in and contribute to their favorite areas of the forums.
After a bit of time and once a listener has some chats under their belt, they can become more involved by applying to do the following:
- Adult/Teen Listener: After one month and after meeting several requirements, adults are allowed to apply to listen to teens as well. The process includes a background check and an interview in order to ensure the safety of the 7 Cups of Tea teen community.
- Verified Listener Badge: After 50+ chats and at least 1 positive written review, listeners can do a mock chat with a member of the Verifiers Team. If they pass the mock chat and have met the other requirements, they become a verified listener, which signifies that they are a high-quality listener.
- Verifiers Team: After 100+ chats and at least 4 positive written reviews, listeners who have already earned their Verified Listener badge may join the team of verifiers and help make sure that 7 Cups of Tea focuses on quality.
- Group Moderator: A group mod is someone who has met the requirements and passed the quiz that comes with the application. These listeners oversee support rooms and guide discussions to help make sure they are safe and welcoming for all members/guests.
- Peer Supporter: Listeners who are Peer Supporters provide support to other listeners after they have had a rough chat.
- Mentors, Mentor Leaders, & Ambassadors: These are community leaders who have met certain requirements and who have shown exceptional dedication to their projects and to the 7 Cups of Tea community as a whole. These leaders help with ongoing chats, work on training, answer questions, lead projects, and generally support the site and the listening community.
Getting Involved as a Social Sciences Student
There are also ways to become involved with 7 Cups of Tea as a social sciences student. The site has an internship program open to everyone but geared toward undergraduate and graduate programs in the health and human services area. Here are a few quotes from the site about the internship program:
- “7 Cups of Tea is a great place for students to serve as non-paid interns and, in turn, receive credit for their academic programs.”
- “Any student enrolled in a Social and Human Services program where a certain number of field placement or practicum hours are required to complete a certificate/degree can participate.”
- “Students who bring their life experience, academic skills, genuine passion for helping those in need, and who also have aspirations of working in the behavioral health field, will likely find this work very rewarding.”
My Opinion as a Professional Psychologist
Since becoming a listener on 7 Cups of Tea approximately six months ago, I have become extremely involved in the community.
I became a Verified Listener and helped to verify others. I also became a Peer Supporter and Group Moderator. I joined various teams and currently help lead several teams. I also applied for and became a mentor in several areas including chatrooms, quality, forums, and teens. I have helped many members by completing over 1,500 one-to-one chats.
I love the flexibility of this volunteer position because I can spend as little or as much time on 7 Cups of Tea as I want. If I need time away from the site, that is easily arranged as well. I do not feel that my work or social life have been diminished because of my involvement — on the contrary, 7 Cups of Tea encourages listeners to balance their lives. I have also had the opportunity to make some fabulous friends!
With all that said, let me pull back for a moment to give you my straightforward opinion of 7 Cups of Tea as a Psychologist.
Should 7 Cups of Tea be a substitute for mental health treatment with a licensed clinician for individuals who need that level of care? No way.
Can it aid those individuals as a supplement to their care? Definitely!
Do listeners on 7 Cups of Tea provide advice/therapy? Not in the traditional sense. However, active listening skills are hugely important in therapy regardless of where you are working. 7 Cups of Tea focuses intensely on those skills.
Are listeners on the site adequately trained? Yes and no. They are definitely trained well for active listening. Unfortunately, there are times when members/guests need more than emotional support to get through their troubles, but it can still be vital to their wellbeing.
Are the training modules difficult? For someone seeking a degree in this field, they are not. However, they introduce and educate many listeners who would never be exposed to this information otherwise. Improving the training modules is one of many areas of 7 Cups of Tea that really benefits from student and clinician involvement.
Overall, I think 7 Cups of Tea is one of the most amazing and fulfilling volunteer opportunities in which I have participated.
I am sharing this information with readers today because I feel this is an opportunity worth exploring.
As an advocate for treating underserved populations, 7 Cups of Tea helps supply some much-needed support for many individuals, including those without health insurance — after all, it is FREE.
No, it is not mental health treatment and should not be substituted for mental health treatment with a licensed clinician. However, it still has a huge impact on the lives of many people worldwide. Anyone who is interested in the mental health field or simply wants to help others would likely enjoy being part of this community.
I encourage you to check out 7 Cups of Tea to see what kind of contribution you can make to the emotional well-being of those in need.
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