What is Peer Counseling?

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what is peer counseling

Have you sought advice from any of your friends? Were you embarrassed when talking with them or, did it feel natural and easy? Throughout our lifetime, we seek help from our friends, albeit they are not qualified professionals. This help-seeking tendency noticed in social groups makes the use of peer counselors an excellent choice. Notably, you solicit advice from your friends before you visit a qualified counselor.

What Is Peer Counseling? 

Peer counseling is a unique way of offering therapy services to society through peers who provide advice and suggestions to people in need. Qualified counselors train volunteers on the best way of helping their friends, colleagues, and classmates. Peer therapy eliminates awkwardness and stereotyping associated with visiting a counseling officer. You can see a friend during lunch breaks or after school without fear of judgment.

The key aspects of peer counseling include:

  1. Shared Experience: Peer counselors often have firsthand knowledge of the challenges and issues faced by those seeking help because they have been through similar situations themselves. This shared experience helps create a sense of understanding and connection.
  2. Empathy: Peer counselors provide emotional support and empathy, drawing on their own experiences to relate to the feelings and struggles of the person seeking help. This can create a more comfortable and open environment for sharing.
  3. Non-judgmental Approach: Peer counselors typically approach their role without judgment, recognizing that everyone’s journey is unique. This non-judgmental stance fosters trust and encourages open communication.
  4. Active Listening: Effective communication is a cornerstone of peer counseling. Peer counselors practice active listening, paying close attention to the concerns and emotions of the person seeking help and responding with empathy.
  5. Confidentiality: Like professional counselors, peer counselors uphold the principles of confidentiality. This ensures that individuals feel safe sharing their experiences and concerns without fear of judgment or disclosure.
  6. Resource Sharing: While peer counselors may not have formal training, they can offer practical advice and share resources based on their own experiences. This may include coping strategies, self-help techniques, or information about relevant support services.

Who Is It For?

Generally, anyone can use peer counseling services provided they have a solvable problem. Notably, the programs are designed to suit adolescents and adults with different issues. For instance, high school students learn various ways of communicating their feelings and resolving conflicts. 

Having a friend that actively listens to your problems and provides confidential pieces of advice is helpful. Adults use peer counselors to talk about different subjects, such as mental health, family issues, and conflict resolution.

When Is the Right Time to Start?

You can solicit peer counseling services when you have a problem but don’t wish to visit a professional counselor. As soon as you experience a problem in school or at your place of work, join peer counseling programs—the initiatives aid in suicide prevention in high schools and places of work, too. 

Don’t let yourself feel mentally or emotionally troubled.  Your peers can offer excellent advice that helps deal with your problem.

Benefits of Peer Counseling

Peer counselors provide you excellent problem-solving skills. These people receive competent creative and critical thinking training from qualified professionals. The knowledge helps in developing solutions to your problems. You are guaranteed viable solutions when you talk to a peer counselor.

Active listeners make it easy for people to share their problems. Peer counselors make you feel understood because of their excellent listening skills. Additionally, it’s less stressful to visit your friend during breaks compared to scheduling an appointment with qualified counseling professional.

Peer therapists offer confidentiality and flexibility since you can meet at convenient times. Counselors are trained to uphold confidentiality at all times to build trust among classmates or colleagues.

Furthermore, you get therapy sessions at affordable prices or for free depending on whether you seek the services through online means or in-person.

Online Vs. In-Person

When seeking out peer counselors, you need to choose a platform that’s convenient and beneficial to you. Mainly, you can get help through online or in-person sessions.

In-person counseling requires you to visit a peer counselor at a comfortable place where you can talk about your problem without fear of judgment. The both of you can meet at a café, restaurant, public park, or gymnasium.

You share your problem with the counselor, and they offer excellent advice. It’s easier for the peer counselor to provide follow up to their patients. Follow up can be done through scheduled physical meetings, impromptu show ups, and calls, and messages.

The personal touch provided in in-person helps individuals open up to you. However, you have to possess excellent communication skills that make people feel better after meetings. 

Online counseling depends on several factors. It requires a stable connection and commitment from both parties. You have to schedule online meetings where you discuss problems via Skype or Zoom. 

Unfortunately, follow up is mostly done through emails and video conferencing. The use of such media makes it hard for peer counselors to offer their services effortlessly.

However, the development of online counseling programs has made everything easy. You can quickly get and offer peer counseling services online. Moreover, online platforms have made it easy to volunteer and become a peer counselor.

The development increases anonymity, making it easy for people of all ages to seek online therapy services. Many programs cover three primary areas of online counseling for teenagers, online counseling for families, and suicide prevention.

How Does Peer Counseling Work?

Many therapy programs use emails and chat conferencing where you share your problems using texts. You don’t have to upload your image or share your personal information if you don’t want it.

The sites require you to open an account, and you are assigned a peer counselor, depending on the problem that you have. Your peer counselor communicates with you through emails and chats.

People readily share information knowing that the data is kept private. The use of texts helps you assess your conversation before sharing it with your counselor.

Nonetheless, the effectiveness of your sessions depends on your ability to express yourself through words. Furthermore, you have to ensure that you are honest with your counselor for advice to bear fruit.

How to Choose the Best Peer Counselor?

Choose an online counselor that offers services at an affordable price. The program has to meet your privacy and confidentiality requirements. Preferably, go for sites that provide a list of therapists/counselors.

Look for Reviews

Reviews provide an excellent method of judging the effectiveness of the programs. You want reviews that assess the privacy, advice given, and speed of response. The chosen programs need to offer you immediate answers to your emails, sound advice, and professional yet friendly counselors.

Peer counseling significantly helps reduce the risk of suicide by providing individuals with accessible helpers. Specifically, online counseling has simplified the process of seeking advice. You don’t have to wait for an extended period to get a chance to talk to a social worker or a counselor. However, the validity and effectiveness of the advice offered depends on the type of program that you select.

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