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Chapter 6: Technology Consultants

Technology consultants form the core of a technology abuse clinic. They communicate with clients, guiding them through technology safety checks, providing education and resources, and acting as the face of the clinic. Determining whether a potential candidate is a good fit for such an important role can be difficult, and in this chapter we share our experience with recruitment and screening. Similarly, training and supporting consultants is important for the health and safety of both clients and consultants. This chapter thus provides additional details around maintaining a culture of accountability, learning, and respect for these key staff members.

In this chapter:

Volunteer vs. Paid Technology Consultants

Existing clinics have primarily utilized a model in which most technology consultants are unpaid volunteers. As such, technology consultants have professional and personal lives outside of the clinic, and are asked to devote approximately 10 hours (CETA) or 2 sessions (TECC Clinic) a month to the clinic. Whether or not technology consultants are compensated may have a large impact on setting reasonable expectations and workloads. Expecting volunteers to perform at a level comparable to a paid job is likely to result in frustration and disappointment. (For reference, we find that paid part-time consultants can serve roughly 3-5X more clients than volunteer staff.)

Volunteers may need to take extended breaks due to vacation or work (encouraged as part of self-care), may need more reminders about procedures and training than one would expect from a paid staff member, and may be more likely to neglect clinic-related duties if there is a conflict between volunteering and their professional or personal lives.

Volunteer consultants also lack natural enforcement mechanisms; there are no consequences for volunteers who renege on their volunteering commitment, other than removing them from the clinic team. However, the lack of consequences should not be confused with an inability to establish mechanisms for accountability or support (see Supporting Technology Consultants), regardless of whether technology consultants are paid or not.

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Recruiting Technology Consultants

Any clinic will need to recruit technology consultants. We have found casting a wide net to yield a well-rounded pool of technology consultants to be most effective. By this we mean aiming to recruit, for example, technologists that require IPV training, as well as IPV advocates who may need technology training. Important considerations to consider when recruiting include whether your clinic will offer in-person services, requiring consultants to be physically located in the same locale as the clinic, or if services will be offered remotely and consultants may be geographically distributed. Potential avenues for soliciting applicant technology consultants might include:

Leveraging personal and professional networks: Word-of-mouth can effectively attract potential applicants. Particularly in the early stages of setting up a clinic, tapping these networks may help reduce the need for screening. Recruits who have personal or professional affiliation with the clinic are also more likely to be patient with the unforeseen obstacles endemic to the early stages of any new organization. However, relying solely on personal or professional networks risks reinforcing the inherent biases of these networks into who is represented in the clinic staff.

Interest groups and topical newsletters: Consider reaching out to local organizations with a mission that is related to the social impact of technology and/or organizations dedicated to anti-violence, gender equity, diversifying technology and computer science, or community and neighborhood interest groups. 


Local colleges, tech companies, and related professional organizations: Similar to above, programs in computer, data, or information science, social work, community health, and companies that hire those in these areas may have interested candidates. Some companies may have employee resource groups (ERGs) that are particularly fruitful for advertising.


The web and social media networks: Consider creating a website or social media accounts for your clinic and posting an open call for volunteers. You can also ask organizations with larger online followings to boost your call for applications. 

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Receiving and Screening Applications

Consider what applicant materials to collect in order to facilitate screening and evaluation of potential technology consultants. Existing clinics, for example, have asked applicants to submit a CV, statement of interest, contact information for 2-3 references, and additional demographic and/or location data (see sample call for applications and application form). If a clinic works with minors (under 18 years old), then some background checks for history of child abuse or other problems may be requisite. 


After receiving applications, the next step is reviewing applicants and evaluating their potential to become effective technology consultants. In addition to carefully reading provided applicant materials, we recommend conducting at least one face-to-face (virtual or in-person) interview to gauge an applicant’s communication skills. 


While it is impossible during the early stages of any recruitment process to have perfect accuracy in assessing an individual candidate's potential, below we suggest traits that we have seen in successful technology consultants and what to look for when screening and/or evaluating candidates, either by reviewing application materials or during an interview. 

Suggested Screening Criteria for Technology Consultants

Communication Skills: Technology consultants will need to explain technical concepts to people who have a range of technical literacy and/or varying language capacities.


Prior experience teaching or explaining technical concepts to others will likely be an asset (e.g., tutoring experience, IT helpdesk, helping family members).

Resilience and Composure: Survivors will often share stories of abuse or become emotional during sessions. Prior experience working with traumatized populations or in sensitive settings (e.g., EMT, counseling, other social or aid work) will be advantageous.


Moreover, we have found that many people who are interested in working at a clinic are themselves IPV survivors, which may add additional dynamics or potential triggers in discussions of abuse.

Empathy and Trauma-Consciousness: All consultants should receive training in trauma-informed care during the clinic training, so it can be okay if they have misconceptions during the screening and interview stage. That said, applicants should demonstrate some level of intuitive empathy towards others, which might be gauged by asking, for example, what they would do if someone started crying or became emotional during a conversation.

Adaptability and Problem Solving: Successful technology consultants will be comfortable with uncertainty or dealing with "gray areas" that often arise when working with survivors. They will also need to be able to creatively problem solve and suggest options that meet survivors’ individual needs and address specific technology problems.  

Technology Literacy: Finally, while technology consultants do not need to be technology experts, they should feel comfortable learning about or navigating new platforms and be able to confidently learn new technology concepts.

We include as resources in the Appendix sample interview guides and rubrics that detail how existing clinics have assessed these traits in evaluating candidates. 

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Training and Evaluation

After screening and interviews, accepted applicants will need to undergo training. Training should cover the fundamentals of IPV, advocacy, and technology abuse mitigation. One approach for training technology consultants is to outsource general IPV and advocacy training to a partner agency with qualified trainers. Alternatively, existing clinics (TECC Clinic) have technology consultants go through the same staff/advocate training that the host partner agency requires all its advocates to complete. Another approach is to create in-house trainings, with IPV trainings facilitated by an experienced IPV advocate, and technology abuse trainings led by a technology abuse expert. 


Regardless of how trainers are sourced, we recommend technology consultants are trained, at a minimum, in the following topics: 

  • Introduction to IPV (aka IPV 101)

  • Secondary trauma and self-care

  • Skills and approaches for communicating with clients

  • Common types of technology abuse and how to discover and mitigate it.


We provide as a resource an outline of the training program used by an existing clinic. 


We strongly encourage combining a variety of training modalities, especially learning via role-play activities or shadowing, which offer unique opportunities to evaluate how other technology consultants approach interactions with survivors. As examples, existing clinics have utilized combinations of the following training modalities:

  • Lecture-based training: Trainers deliver presentations to provide trainees with background on advocacy and technology abuse. This may include the review of written materials and resources.

  • Scenario-based exercises: Trainees receive hypothetical client case briefs to review and discuss in small groups or among the training cohort. 

  • Role-playing activities: Trainees are asked to play the role of a technology consultant and/or the role of a client. Trainees are given a sample role-playing activity that includes a consultation scenario along with scaffolds detailing a hypothetical client situation and possible reactions.

  • Listening to recordings of sample consultations: Clients should have consented to both the recording and the recording being used for training purposes.

  • Graduated field training: CETA uses an approach in which trainees first passively shadow more experienced technology consultants for a few appointments. They then graduate to a more active technology consultant role, but are still teamed up with more experienced “case leads”. Then they graduate to become case leads, handle client cases on their own, and help train future technology consultants.

Supporting Technology Consultants

Providing technology consultants with sufficient support is crucial for the safety of both consultants and clients, and for the overall health of the clinic. Technology consultants have often sought opportunities to work in a technology abuse clinic out of a sense of altruism and sincerely want to help survivors; creating a rewarding and positive environment and building a supportive community will nurture this impulse.

Examples of support that may be provided include:

Strategies for Structural Support

  • ​Self-care structurally embedded into the clinic

    • Regular check-ins with supervisory clinic staff

    • Organized opportunities for debrief (e.g., post-appointment chats)

    • Unorganized opportunities for debrief (e.g., social events)

    • Caps on client work to encourage time off

    • Standardizing practices that protect boundaries around consultant's time

  • Physical safety

    • Secure, safe place to conduct in-person appointments

    • Dedicated communication lines for any communication with clients

    • Use of pseudonyms in client appointments, if desired, and respect for those pseudonyms.

  • Supplementary Training

    • Continued education, e.g. seminars, guest speakers, resources for other trainings, refreshers on existing topics

    • In-appointment resources, such as step-by-step guides, etc.

  • Accountability (for the consultant and clinic)

    • Individualized feedback

    • Transparency about clinic operations

    • Opportunities to provide anonymous critical feedback 

    • Encouraging at least two consultants per appointment, if possible

    • Tracking active client consultations

We also recommend delivering support via multiple modalities and providing alternative ways for technology consultants to participate in clinic meetings and events. This is especially important if technology consultants are volunteers (and hence have other professional commitments) and/or are geographically distributed. Useful mechanisms we have used to help technology consultants balance volunteer obligations with their other time commitements include:

  • Writing down and documenting policies in an easily accessible format (CETA maintains a technology consultant handbook for this purpose)

  • Recording trainings for those who cannot attend 

  • Embedding links to procedural checklists  (e.g. links to training documents embedded into case management software) 

  • Providing extra reminders of procedures and best practices

  • Providing alternatives for those who cannot make activities (e.g., CETA sends out a newsletter for those who can't make team meetings)

Leaving the Technology Abuse Clinic

It is natural for technology consultants to eventually stop working with the technology abuse clinic. Indeed, IPV advocacy organizations commonly experience relatively high rates of staff turnover. Attrition may also be relatively high if technology consultants are donating their time as unpaid volunteers. 


We recommend that technology abuse clinics build in processes that enable the graceful exit of technology consultants from the clinic. This may include creating and communicating to technology consultants the process for resigning from the clinic (e.g., who they should notify and any required notice period). Clinic leadership will need to reassign any active client cases the departing consultant is working on and inform any affected clinic staff (e.g., Technology Staff Manager). If possible and appropriate, we also suggest creating mechanisms that celebrate the contributions of departing team members, thanking them for their service, and providing others with opportunities to show their appreciation and gratitude for the consultant’s work. 


Finally, we note that the rate of attrition of technology consultants (and the number of clients requiring service) will impact how often the technology abuse clinic will need to recruit and train new cohorts of technology consultants. For example, over the last few years, CETA has recruited and trained a new cohort of technology consultants annually, while the TECC Clinic experienced a gap in training new technology consultants during the COVID-19 pandemic, but has since resumed. 

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