Dr. Lee and Mr. McCowell have worked with peer support members in several services and organizations. While all of these people are passionate and devoted, they are often working with minimal resources, training, and support. Both Vivien and Shawn are facilitators for Toronto Beyond the Blue’s peer support groups for officers, family members, and couples.
From a psychology perspective, Dr. Lee can offer:
- Consultation regarding structure, recruitment, screening, training, members’ ongoing support of each other, self-care and boundary-setting, maintaining members’ wellness and health
- Training & workshops
- Clinical lead services for ongoing “supervision” of the peer support members to help cope with the impacts of helping others, risk of compassion fatigue, and of course their own operational stressors from work
- Safeguarding or mental health “check-ups” of peer support team members to help protect their own health and wellness
- Design and implementation of peer support contact tracking. Having anonymous and non-identifiable information can help teams know what types of issues members are seeking support for and whether more resources are needed.
From a peer perspective, Shawn has certifications in Crisis Intervention with both individuals and groups through the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF).
He offers two-day training workshops that can be adapted to the individual needs of the organization. What makes Shawn stand apart are his passions, personal experiences as a front-line officer and supervisor, over two decades of supporting his peers, and an engaging style of incorporating moving and humorous experiences.
Some things to consider when setting up or revamping your peer support team:
- Peer nomination: You want peer supporters that members will feel comfortable approaching! When members are able to nominate who they think would be effective peer supporters it increases the chances that the peer supporters will be approached.
- Individual screening: As working the front lines can be tough enough, adding peer support and exposure to peers’ distress can add to that toll. Peer support members are ideally screened by a clinician to make sure the individual is healthy enough when they join the team to serve as a peer supporter and that they have healthy coping skills and a self-care plan to maintain their wellness.
- Annual check-ins: Related to the point above, helpers like to help and can give their all when helping. This can also take a toll if one is not taking care of him or herself. Annual safeguarding or “check-in” assessments with a psychologist can be helpful to make sure peer supporters are keeping themselves healthy.
- Skills training: Identifying the specific skills that peer supporters will need to support their peers, such as crisis intervention, suicide, critical incident defusing.
- Peer supporters supporting each other. In the clinical world, clinicians often have “rounds” where they meet to debrief, share educational or organizational information, trouble-shoot, and process their own reactions to their work. Similarly, peer supporters would strongly benefit from such regular check-ins with each other.
- Ongoing education and training: It is important for supporters to keep up-to-date on knowledge, skills, and best practices.
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