Peer Support Program
A Peer Support training program for organizations with elevated employee stress
High-stress jobs like emergency response, search and rescue, hospital and medical, trauma assistance, and others can take a significant toll on workers' physical and emotional wellbeing. While these careers can be rewarding, they have been shown to negatively impact some employees, resulting in burnout, secondary traumatic stress, and diminished overall health. This not only affects the individual employee but can also lead to a loss of talent and decreased employee retention for the organization. Implementing our peer support program can help alleviate these risks and promote a resilient workforce.
First Priority Peer Support is an evidence-informed resiliency and behavioral health initiative designed to address these needs. Peer Support can be instrumental in normalizing stress reactions, reducing stigma and barriers to other supports such as professional services, and can increase bonding of an organization or team. Peer Support also allows for a surveillance approach to stress and support outside of what is often defined as a critical incident or event. Instead of a group debrief, commonly called a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) immediately following an event, which may prove more harmful than beneficial, Peer Support can extend individualized support and check in on other’s days, weeks, and months after an event, and can also be available to support and discuss stressors outside of such an event.
The First Priority Peer Support Model
The First Priority Peer Support program trains volunteers within an organization to become “Peer Supporters” by teaching them basic counseling and support skills and providing them with knowledge about stress and psychological trauma related to their occupation. With this training, these individuals can assist their peers with posttraumatic or occupational stress and guide them to an appropriate level of treatment when needed.
Benefits of the First Priority Peer Support Program
There are several benefits to implementing the First Priority Peer Support program approach, including:
- A surveillance approach to monitor stress reactions and offer support outside of the immediate aftermath of a trauma or significant stress event
- A definition of psychological trauma beyond what is defined as a critical event or critical incident
- A focus on individual reactions, rather than the general reaction expressed by a group
- Support that is optional and confidential
- Individualized assessments and referrals tailored to the appropriate level and type of service
- A forum for other non-trauma-based issues and problems
- A method that enhances the use and effectiveness of natural trauma resolution and other coping mechanisms, rather than interfering with these processes
- A more cost-effective delivery of tiered psychological services
What makes our training different?
We provide Peer Support Training at the organizational level. Material and training for Peer Support are customized to the organization to include specific experiences or stressors Peer Supporters may encounter. This allows trained Peer Supporters to create and foster a culture of structured peer support within the organization. First Priority Peer Support can also work with leadership to further cultivate this culture.
Initial Training of New Peer Supporters: A licensed mental health professional from the Lyda Hill Institute for Human Resilience provides the initial Peer Support training. Initial training takes place over several consecutive days utilizing a cohort model, allowing a group of Peer Supporters to be trained at the same time and creating trust among the group. This training can be conducted in-person or virtually.
- First Priority Peer Support Basics (definition and implementation of the peer support program)
- Understanding Stress
- Critical Incident Stress, PTSD, Trauma, and Critical Incident Stress Management
- Essential Counseling Skills
- Conflict Management
- Ethics and Confidentiality
- Grief and Loss
- Depression, Anxiety, & Other Disorders
- Substance Use
- First Priority Peer Support Advisors, Supervision, and Protocols
- Documentation Procedures
Supervision of Peer Supporters: First Priority Peer Support can provide oversight and supervision for the Peer Supporters and the program, as well as provide resources as needed. The purpose of this is to assist the Peer Supporters in the daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly activities required to maintain the program.
Ongoing Training for Existing Peer Supporters: Peer Supporters can attend an hourly training on a quarterly basis to refresh their skills and learn new techniques.
Technology and Resources for Peer Supporters: Peer Supporters can be provided several technology-based tools and resources to aid in trauma and stress response for personal use as well as a resource to share with peers.
“The Peer Support Program has been such a great program for CDOT employees. The training provided to the Peer Supporters has really equipped me with additional tools to handle almost any issues that our organization and its employees go through. The overall running of the program has been very professional, supportive and has remained that way the entire two years I have been a part of the program.” – W. G.
“First and foremost: Thank you! This training has proved priceless for myself. Taking the skills I possessed and allowing them to be honed and sharpened has allowed me to become a better peer supporter. Even in the midst of COVID and virtual meetings, the training came across clearly and we were able to, in real time, practice these skills with each other. The material was presented in manageable "chunks" and the proctor was receptive to feedback and keeping our interest! Thank you again!” – C.E.
“The program gave me a great refresher of my previous experience in Peer Support for Law Enforcement. The program was great giving feedback to other participants and listening to the issues that worried them and letting them know it is ok, not to know it all.” – E. M.
Cost & Other Info
The cost associated with this program can vary greatly dependent on the way an organization chooses to structure its Peer Support training program. For a customized proposal for your organization, please click on the “Request Info” button below.
First Priority Peer Support is part of the Community Training and Empowerment division of the Lyda Hill Institute for Human Resilience at UCCS.
Please note that the First Priority Peer Support program is not a substance recovery-based program. While the training does provide foundational education on substance use, it is not designed to be an ongoing recovery and relapse prevention service.