What is Peer Counselling?
Peer counselling is a helping process designed to support and enhance the social and mental well-being of individuals who are facing life transitions and challenges.
Senior Peer Counselling services address these needs for aging adults and seniors by providing confidential, no-cost, one-to-one support with the help of trained volunteers – the peer counsellors.
Who are the Peer Counsellors?
The senior peer counsellors are volunteers 55 years and older who are interested in the well-being of aging adults in their community. Peer counsellors are good listeners. Their personal experience and the training they receive enables them to better understand the problems and needs of the senior they are helping.
Peer Counsellors also receive ongoing training and support from the Coordinator of the program to which they belong, other peer counsellors and from various service providers serving seniors in the community and/or the healthcare system.
All applicants are carefully screened, must successfully complete a training course recognized by SPC/BC and undergo a Criminal Record Check before being matched with participants/clients.
For more information about peer counsellors, consult the Senior Peer Counselling program in your community. To find the Senior Peer Counselling service in your community, the SPC/BC Directory may be used.
The peer counsellor volunteers are there to offer:
- Listening and emotional support
- Empathy and guidance
- Information and outreach
- Exploration of possibilities
- Assistance in setting goals
How does Peer Counselling Work?
At the heart of senior peer counselling are the beliefs that:
- Aging adults gain clarity and are better able to make decisions when they have someone to talk to who will genuinely listen to them
- Aging adults are more comfortable talking to those who are close in age to them and have had similar life experiences
- Aging adults want to stay in charge of their own lives and make decisions consistent with their own values
Senior peer counselling is also based on the principles of self-help and mutual aid. Volunteer peer counsellors give the aging adults opportunities to tell their stories, to express how they feel and help them to recognize that their feelings are normal and valid. When peer counsellors have had similar life experiences and acquired coping skills, a special bond of trust develops which can increase the effectiveness of the relationship.
The empathic listening and support provided by the peer counsellors helps seniors stay fully engaged in their lives, connected to their environment and healthy.
The Benefits of Senior Peer Counselling
Senior peer counselling can provide benefits to the individual participant/client and also to his/her family and friends.
For the Individual, the peer counselling process:
- increases the opportunity for or the number of social relationships
- provides the support necessary to develop or renew positive coping skills
- provides information on programs/resources available in the community or through health services
- helps individuals be as independent as possible in their altered circumstances.
For the Family and Close Others:
- benefit from establishing healthier relationships with empowered individuals who are better able to cope.
Who can have Access to Peer Counselling?
In BC, all aging adults who are facing life challenges can have access to Peer Counselling services regardless of gender, race, religion or ability.
The individuals who access Senior Peer Counselling programs might be troubled by one or multiple issues such as:
- Loneliness, depression, anxiety
- Isolation from family and/or friends
- Disability and mobility issues
- Relocation, new situations
- Grief or loss of loved ones
- Health concerns
- Intergenerational conflicts
- Other life challenges
Senior Peer Counselling programs take into account the specific issues which are relevant to their milieus and strive to meet the specific needs of the aging population who live in the communities in which they are located.
Just as every community has its own character, SPC/BC’s province-wide member groups are also diverse, ranging from small community-based stand alone societies to programs offered through large non-profit organizations like neighbourhood houses, senior centres or in some cases, community health centres.
Each regional member group operates independently using the guidelines set by SPC/BC. Member groups are supervised by Coordinators/trained peer counsellors who guide the process, maintain statistical information, and arrange ongoing education for the volunteer peer counsellors.
To get in touch with the Senior Peer Counselling program in your community to talk about the issue/s you are facing, consult the SPC/BC Directory.
How can I Contact a Peer Counsellor?
There are different ways to access the service:
Access and referrals
- Senior peer counselling programs have “open “referral systems
- Referrals come from: public and private care providers, community groups, and health services
- Self-referral and requests from family and friends are welcome
- The Program Coordinator will receive and assess the referral and then assign the peer counsellor who best suits the individual’s needs and situation
Use our SPC/BC Directory to find the Senior Peer Counselling service in your community.
Volunteer as a Peer Counsellor
For information on how to volunteer as a Peer Counsellor, please click here.