There are a number of key ingredients to run a successful peer helper program. First and foremost, the support of the community is necessary. In order for a program to flourish, community support is needed to provide a location for training on an on-going basis. A successful program needs dedicated facilitators who are willing to invest in the adolescents they work with. The likelihood of a program's success greatly improves with facilitators who are passionate about their program and who have had appropriate training to work with the youth.
There are different models for the structure of the program and the actual lessons. Dr. Peirce has had very positive experiences working in a "retreat" style of training where the peer helpers and their facilitators work together learning the skills over a one week training period. For a sample day from a workshop retreat <click here>. Having the facilitator training directly with a core group of the adolescents they will work with provides a very powerful learning and bonding experience.
The program involves a pre-workshop session with the facilitators to establish the responsibilities and expectations which are consistent with the outcomes desired. Logistics and pre-planning for the group is an important component.
During the workshop, the lessons focus on establishing a high level of trust in the group, teaching strong listening skills and techniques, understanding the impact of body language and emotion, establishing appropriate decision making strategies and instilling ethics and responsibility in each member of the group. For a list of lesson topics <click here>.
Several of Dr. Peirce's workshops have taken part in communities with significant First Nation's populations. These sessions have been greatly enriched by the participation of a First Nation's elder who educates the group about First Nation's culture and tradition.
There is a great deal of wonderful resource information regarding peer helping programs. Peer Resources, a global leader in peer assistance, mentorship and coaching, offers training, materials and a vast network of peer helper program research. Information regarding the National Certification Program can also be found here.
Suggested additional reading: Lessons from a Journey with Peer Counselling