Peer Counseling I

Course Overview

Units at a glance

Peer counselors are compassionate guides. They apply knowledge, use specific tools, and follow certain rules to help people get past obstacles and reach their goals. One of the tools counselors use is treating others with deep respect. The rules counselors follow include setting therapeutic boundaries and keeping confidentiality with those they help.  A counselor’s knowledge base must include the five universal human needs of physical well-being: security, belonging, appreciation, and personal development.

Peer counselors understand that emotions are a universal language. Emotions provide us with useful information, and they help us make decisions and connect with others. The emotions people feel reflect how well their basic needs are—or are not—being met. When counselors are familiar with the seven basic emotions and how they relate to our universal human needs, it helps them assess what a person needs to do to feel better. Because expressing emotions effectively helps individuals fulfill their own needs, it is a skill that counselors must role model and teach.

Peer counselors are aware of what people have in common and what causes them to behave differently. They know human behavior is shaped by how well our basic needs are met, the temperament we are born with, the habits of early caregivers, our environment, and our understanding of emotions. Some of the behaviors people develop and habitually use are protective behaviors, designed to keep them emotionally and physically safe. Counselors recognize these protective behaviors and call them defense mechanisms. Some are very ineffective and prevent people from getting what they want or need.

Peer counselors use a unique set of tools to help others reach their goals. Counselors practice active listening by giving their complete attention to what someone is saying, and they respond without judgment. Facilitative questioning is used to help peers talk about feelings, explore their issues, and find solutions. Counselors employ the tools of paraphrasing and reflecting to clarify what peers have shared, convey sincere interest, and help individuals identify their needs and emotions.

Peer counselors use a unique set of tools to help others reach their goals. Counselors express their attentiveness and interest through their body language. They give feedback by sharing their observations, which enables peers to see themselves through the counselor’s eyes. Counselors summarize to highlight the main points that a peer has shared. Assessments are information-gathering tools that provide an overall picture of a peer’s situation. To be effective, all these tools are used with an attitude of nonjudgment.

Peer counselors are often called upon to negotiate a resolution to a conflict. This requires patience because each person involved feels uniquely threatened and has his or her own perception of the problem. Some individuals are competitive in conflict negotiations while others are accommodating, compromising, or avoiding. The ideal negotiation is a collaborative one, where all involved listen to each other and work for a win-win solution. Counselors need to create a negotiation environment of safety and equality, keep the discussion on topic, and know how to facilitate brainstorming. Naturally, counselors must also be prepared to manage difficulties, such as reaching a resolution impasse.

Peer counselors often work within teams and may be called on to serve as team leaders. Flexible leaders know their natural leadership style and adjust it to suit the situation or problem at hand. People in the counseling field frequently enjoy collaborative leadership that focuses on maintaining good working relationships. Effective leaders know their team requires a purpose and plan, operating instructions, and a system of accountability and reward. They understand that team members thrive when appreciated, when communication is consistent, and that members develop social bonds. Leaders guide their teams through the four stages of team development: forming, storming, norming, and performing. This is accomplished by meeting the members’ changing needs at each development stage.

Peer counselors are often called upon to lead peer groups. The groups may be educational, supportive, or social. Counseling groups have many benefits, such as providing hope, information, social growth, and a sense of belonging. Leaders keep the group running according to its purpose and plan and maintain a safe, respectful group environment. They facilitate sharing and discussion and employ counseling tools to assist withdrawn, disruptive, or distressed individuals. Members are guided through the three stages of group development: orientation, groundwork, and cohesion.

Course Highlights

Explore how to handle conflicts and resolve problems.
Learn what a peer counselor is and how they can help others.
Master effective communication skills, including active listening.
Examine what makes someone a leader and how to increase leadership skills.

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