When adolescents seek support for many of the life situations they face, they typically approach their peers rather than seeking adult support systems which may already be in place. Youth of today tend to be energetic, positive and are extremely well positioned to support others in their peer groups. Peer helping or peer counseling programs can serve as an extremely effective support system in their community. Through inexpensive and purposeful training, young people can be provided with the opportunity to provide an effective and efficient resource and support to those people in a community responsible for the well-being of today’s youth.
Training peer helpers through a structured program ensures they learn the appropriate skills and responsibilities in order to appropriately support their peers. It also allows them to learn about the support systems in place for adolescents, thus allowing them to serve as wonderful referral agents when necessary.
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>.
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>.
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 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.
Suggested additional reading: Lessons from a Journey with Peer Counselling