Selecting Peer Support Facilitators

Selecting Facilitators

Those who volunteer to be facilitators are the bedrock of peer support.  Therefore, they should be treated with respect in any programme.  Nonetheless, it is important to point out that the role does not suit everyone.  Selecting the right volunteers is important because unsuitable volunteers will be more likely to drop out, or make for less effective support.  If you are thinking about becoming a facilitator, this section should help you to think about whether the role is right for you.

As a starting point, we have found that effective facilitators tend to have the following qualities. Click the arrows for further description:

  • Good at listening
    It is very rare someone listens with complete attention and interest, but this is the most important skill there is in peer support! It is covered in detail in section 5, ‘Running Sessions’
  • Empathetic
    Those with high levels of empathy are able to relate to and understand other people; to put themselves in their shoes and ‘get inside’ their situation, which goes hand in hand with listening and supporting
  • Community spirited
    Effective PSFs often take a keen interest in what is going on in their communities. They tend to know people locally and the kind of issues that concern them
  • Genuinely interested in what makes others tick
    Being interested in what motivates and interests others is useful. People are diverse and ‘tick’ in all kinds of different ways!
  • Not the type to overstate their knowledge
    This is important for two reasons. First, those who overstate themselves in general tend not to be as good at listening as others, and second, knowledge transmission is not the idea behind peer support, and may in fact hinder it
  • Were confident and encouraged confidence in others
    Running groups can be daunting if you have not done it before. Confidence in interacting with others is useful to keep the conversation flowing. At the same time, in relate to the point above, too much confidence can be an issue

Sometimes certain things can get in the way of being an effective facilitator.   Here are some other things that might make people unsuitable for the role:

  • Are they hard of hearing?  This might make it difficult to conduct peer support sessions.
  • Do they have previous experience in groups?  This is not essential, but would be useful.
  • Do they have a large number of other commitments?
  • Are they in severe bad health which would make the PSF role particularly difficult?
  • Does their interest wane from initial volunteering through to training?

Facilitators should…

Display an awareness of others, emotional sensitivity, be open and be receptive.

Demonstrate enthusiasm, motivation and organisation skills.

Interact with others with respect, tolerance and without prejudice.

Contribute to group discussions without dominating.

Grasp the basic information imparted during the education session.

Not be prone to over-stating their knowledge.

Based on what we have learnt, we have sketched out a ‘job description’ which you can view here: [link to job description].

[We could also include here an application form for potential facilitators] [Note there are some other useful RfPB resources JPG sent (e-mail date=23/4/13) which I’m not sure whether to include – these are criteria for a good peer and role of the peer – I believe i’ve oncprorated a lot of the first document sent in that email and the last one is on measurement].

Information for organisers
[This section is quite difficult to write at the minute. We need to decide what we are actually going to tell organisers about selection and recruitment – what the official line will be.]
We need something here about accountability, quality assurance.  Because organisers will probably be worried about poor or even unsafe facilitators.  Maybe one idea is to have a reporting system so that if peers have concerns they can e-mail organisers to keep an eye on things.
Update: have found  a document which may be useful, it’s for qualities that educators need to look out for.