Peer Counselling has become very popular in the counselling profession for a while, but it is not new. It has been around for a long time and has already proven itself in academia.
Organizations like the Alcoholic Anonymous, the Canadian paraplegic Association, the Canadian Association for Children with learning disabilities, Parents, groups and the School system have shown that peer counselling is an essential service worth rendering (Berger, 2002).
Researches claim that peer influence can be more effective than teacher-learner relationships, and schools that use peer-to-peer approaches show success in establishing and nurturing positive relationships and a conducive school environment (Young, 2006).
Now, the question is, what is peer counselling and why is it necessary?
What is Peer Counselling?
Peer Counselling is an interactive relationship between age groups to influence positive change. (Bette 2013). It is a process where the peers, i.e. colleagues, discuss their issues amicably without engaging in reprehensible behaviour and, consequently, improving their academics.
Simply put, according to Mutie and Ndambuki (1999), peers are persons of the same age, rank or capacity. In that case, they are friends or companions of age, who learn, talk, compare ideas and do things together.
A peer is someone you come across in terms of approximate equality, a companion or a companion. And Peer Counselling is the process of assisting someone to explore and resolve difficulties they encounter, clarify conflicting issues and helping that person discover alternative ways of managing themselves and situations so that they decide what type of action or behaviour helps them.
Peer Counselling is the best alternative for adolescents' need to identify with their peers. Peers join cliques and groups for the various divergent reasons such as the provision of personal needs of affiliation and companionship, for a reward that is either material or psychological; that is prestige & recognition, enjoyment and excitement, provision of information for raising of their self-esteem and as a means of gaining identity (Lines, 2006). Students discuss issues at home and school during a peer counselling session, substance abuse, and career planning. (Tindi & Silsil, 2008)
Peer counselling has been a crucial part of schools' orientation and counselling programmes for many years in Britain and America. This has been effectively established and managed by training and coaching learners on life skills and basic counselling skills. In their counselling programs, teacher counsellors select peer educators by inviting students to identify two students they are likely to talk to when confronted with difficulties. Subsequently, the named students are trained and empowered with skills and techniques to help them reach other learners (Lepan, 2001). While, in Botswana and Uganda, peer counselling for teenagers is vital as it enables those in the same age bracket to discuss openly and to express personal problems and shortcomings about those in authority, parents, teachers and themselves in a free, relaxed atmosphere (Rutondoki, 2000; UNESCO, 2002).
Not only that, in the recent past, the constitution of Kenya stated that they must be involved in crucial decisions that affect students (Republic of Kenya, 2010; Machogu, 2012). Prefects are young leaders who are empowered by the school (Machogu 2012). Although prefects contribute positively to the leadership of the public secondary school in Kenya, there is a relentless wave of conflict, hostility and resentment mated on prefects by other students (Ajowi & Simatwa, 2010).
Why Peer Counseling? What are its benefits?
Peer Counselling has been part and parcel of modern classrooms and has gained immense importance in the curriculum. Observing this, we, the teachers, students, academicians, are curious to comprehend the why? Why peer counselling?
To answer that, we have enlisted a few benefits of peer counselling.
Conflict Resolution Assistance
When it comes to learning, students face several challenges and maybe uncomfortable seeking help from teachers or elders. From school stress, relations, or even career counselling, they face many issues that need to be dealt with adequately. Also, they may need someone to discuss freely with and get an answer. In such a scenario, peer conflict solving is the most effective benefit of peer counselling.
Learn from Peers
Peer counsellors have generally experienced the same issues in the past.
Through their experience, they can solve any problem efficiently. In addition, students can learn from the experiences of their peers and get help resolving their own.
Obtain help or support
From school to college life, students often seek a certain amount of support/assistance. They need someone to share everything to result in a sound support system and help the students. Given the pressure at school right now, students need an excellent support system.
Receive updated solutions
Already mentioned, peer counsellors are those who have got their shoes wet already; they are experienced. Since experience is the best teacher, they can probably give the best and updated solutions to every problem that will work in day and age. Expecting the exact solutions from Parents is a big deal because they might not have the experience to understand such problems or give relevant solutions for the same. Peer counselling eliminates this gap and provides effective management and solutions.
Provides Safe space
Peer counsellors are sufficiently trained to ensure that it is a safe place where students can share anything they want. There are non-judgmental. They create a safe space where students can open themselves and solve any conflict they face. In addition, it cares for their mental health and lowers their stress as well.
Who are Peer Counselors? What do you gain from Peer Counseling?
To become a Peer counsellor, the person is trained in communication, listening skills, assertiveness, ethics of peer counselling, confidentiality and breach of it, boundaries regarding helping others, and basic counselling skills. Peer counsellors act as a bridge between the counsellor and the student. In the absence of a school or college trustee, peer counsellors help other students understand their emotional and behavioural problems and come up with solutions. They are also called professional advisors but are seldom given a certificate or diploma.
Essential Skills of Peer Counsellor
- Active listening skills (causing no intrusion)
- Empathy and sensitiveness.
- They must keep the student's information confidential, not gossip about it.
- Good communication skills and the ability to dig deeply into the psyche of a student.
- Amiable in nature.
- Innately interested in helping students with their issues.
Video on Peer Counselling
What do Peer Counsellors gain?
- Improves self-esteem and problem-solving skills.
- Teaches leadership competencies.
- They develop empathy, respect and other life skills.
- Also, the experience can help them fetch suitable employment in some foreign universities ask for NGO/volunteer experience.
Do try Peer Counselling in your class and share what changes did you experience during the process.