As a school counselor, I realize that students do not always want to talk or open up to me. When this happens, which is frequently, I introduce the student to one of my peer helpers. My peer helpers know the routine: they ask the student if he or she wants something to drink, they take the student into the our college/career lounge and suggest the student gets comfortable, they start making casual conversation, and slowly they seem to find out what is bothering the student. Depending on what they find out in their conversation, they tell the student that he or she can trust me and I will listen to them. From this tactic, nine out of ten students will ask to come see me escorted by the peer helper. It is truly a beautiful strategy!
What is peer helping?
Simply, peer helping includes people of the same age helping each other. Although, I see kids helping each other all the time at school, the results are not always positive. Case in point, one of my seniors was escorted into my office by an administrator. Her face was flushed, her hair was messy, and she was out of breath. The administrator looked at me and said, “You talk to her…I am finished!” As the administrator left my office, she began to tell me how she and another student almost go into a fight. After she told me about her situation, I asked her to tell me how the fight almost occurred. Like most teen aged dramas, a friend who wanted to “help” told her that this student was talking about her. If the words of her friend had this much power to cause her to want to fight, how could that friend used his or her words in a positive way.
Peer helping includes a variety of helping behaviors by nonprofessionals who are trained and supervised by educators in the schools. Some examples of helping behaviors include:
- peer listening
- peer tutoring
- peer mentoring
- peer advising
- peer buddies
ASCA supports peer helping in schools and recognizes that many school counselors coordinate peer helping programs.
ASCA’s Position on Peer Helping
ASCA believes that peer helping can greatly benefit schools and extend the influence of the counselor. In schools, many school counselors select, train, and supervise, and evaluate peer helpers. According to ASCA, peer helpers increase the services of the school counseling program and can be an invaluable extension of a comprehensive school counseling program.
Peer Helping Training
If your counseling department is interested in starting or expanding your peer helping program, consider attending the National Peer Helping Conference in Point Clear, Alabama. During this conference, participants can receive training in how to establish a peer helper program, how to evaluate a peer helper program, how to expand a peer helper program, and great ideas to take back to your school.
National Peer Helper Conference
Monday February 10-12, 2014
Marriott Grand Hotel Resort
Point, Clear, Alabama
Track 101: Building a Peer Program from the ground up
Track 201: Training Active, Effective Peer Helpers