Peer Support Training
A robust recruitment process is essential to help you make an informed decision, based on what you observe as well as what you hear from people who want to become Peer Supporters. In assessment you are looking for people’s potential to be competent and to develop the personal qualities you are looking for. Peer Support Training is the first step towards developing those competencies.
Project 100 – is the accredited Peer Mentor Training programme currently delivered by Positively UK and funded by The Monument Trust. This national training project will finish in 2019. After the end of the project the materials will continue to be available.
Initial training should really be designed to follow on from assessment. Therefore your training should help participants think about their personal qualities and the extent to which they are:
- Aware of others
- Open to learning and development
Your training should also help participants to develop their:
- Basic knowledge of HIV and treatments
- Insight into wellbeing and self-management strategies
- Ability to demonstrate practical knowledge of sexual health
- Ability to recognise diversity and know how to work with this
- Cross cultural awareness and communication
- Ability to ensure safety for all parties
- Effective listening and communication skills
- Understanding of confidentiality and boundaries
- Understanding of self-management and long-term condition management
- Understanding of safeguarding
- Understanding of monitoring and evaluation and ability to maintain accurate records
- Understanding of SMART goal setting and action planning and able to support mentees to set goals and action plan
- Skill at starting and ending the peer support relationship
The above competencies feature in the National Standards for Peer Support in HIV as part of the toolkit for effective Peer Supporters.
You want your Peer Supporters to be motivated to keep their knowledge and skills current. During this initial training, encouraging your Peer Supporters to stay up to date with developments in the sector will ensure they can confidently:
- Communicate information around reproductive health needs and choices
- Develop a clear knowledge base around safer sex and risk reduction
- Keep a wide knowledge base of current approaches to drug and alcohol issues and use
- Signpost to further support services or information
- Be an advocate
You will tailor your training programme depending on the type of peer support project you are developing. Different types of support will demand different approaches and the development of skills and knowledge that can be tailored to each situation.
Group work is very different from one-to-one support and demands a different set of skills. Considering how groups work, what affects the way a group of people interacts and the roles and behaviours that people in groups take on is important for Peer Supporters supporting groups. Facilitating a group of people is not for everyone. Peer Supporters who are competent and confident working one-to-one will not naturally be good at group work. It is therefore important to practice facilitation skills and think about issues such as conflict resolution, mediation, group management, dealing with contra behaviour, group confidentiality and boundaries and equality of contribution.
If your project involves this type of support, you will need to provide further training that covers the above competencies for group support.
Telephone and Online Support
Again, the above competencies need to be considered in light of having no face to face contact. Telephone support means that Peer Supporters cannot rely on their body language to show that they are engaged and listening. Moreover they cannot judge their mentee by looking for non-verbal clues. The potential for distraction, interruption and technical failure are much higher. Building confidence can be challenging when you are not working face to face, as both Peer Supporter and person supported have to trust that what is being said without visual clues. This is similar for online support, where additionally Peer Supporters will be typing their responses – where meaning and nuance can be misunderstood and difficult to convey. An information sheet for telephone support can be found here.
Structuring your training course
If you are working as part of a larger organisation where resources for training currently exist, you may already have similar training programmes that you can adapt and style for Peer Supporter Training. If you are a small group, and this is the first training you have delivered you may want to get support to help you structure your course. Positively UK has a track record in providing comprehensive, Core Peer Support training for people living with HIV accredited by the OCN (Open College Network). We encourage you to contact us to talk about our resources, what support we can offer you and to find out about peer support networks in your area.
Your initial training course should be part of ongoing assessment of your newly selected Peer Supporters. You should use core training as an opportunity to continue to observe participants and be transparent about this. You should offer time for one-to-one contact during training so that you can give feedback on progress and offer safe space for participants to share their concerns and queries. Peer Support training can bring up difficult feelings and thoughts that participants may not have anticipated. It is therefore important for you to offer support if this happens.
As a result of completing training you may find that a participant decides that the role is not for them. You may also find that you decide, from your observation of their progress during training, that they are not suitable or quite ready to be a Peer Supporter. Considering and offering alternative opportunities to volunteer and learn will support the participant to develop the necessary skills.
Accreditation for Peer Support Training acknowledges the commitment people have made to their learning and demonstrates their competency. It increases the credibility of your project and your Peer Supporters, giving them a qualification that they can use within and without your programme.
Positively UK participants complete an OCN (Open College Network) module to gain accreditation for their learning on the core training. This is an online module that includes completing a number of written exercises that are then marked by an independent body. The certification is generic – i.e. not specific to HIV. This is beneficial to participants in that it does not share their status, and means that they are certificated to offer support in other areas where they may have lived experience.
Induction should form part of the initial training your Peer Supporters receive. Organisation induction is a practical, information based session where newly training Peer Supporters learn about you.
Induction should include:
- Introduction to your organisation/group – mission and values
- Outline of the work you do, and how you do it
- Who you are – people in your organisation/group
- Expectations – what you expect from the Peer Supporters and what they can expect from you
- Policies and procedures relevant to the role
- Health and Safety
- Relevant paperwork and Peer Supporter handbook
- Outline of support and supervision model for the role
Organisation induction can usually be covered in a half day session, and its intensity will depend on the size of your organisation.