Those who volunteer to be facilitators are the bedrock of peer support. Therefore, they should be treated with respect in any programme. But it is important to point out that the role does not suit everyone. Selecting the right people is important because unsuitable volunteers are more likely to drop out, or make for less effective support. If you are thinking about becoming a facilitator, this section should help you decide whether the role is right for you.
You might also want to watch the following video, which gives more of a feel of what a peer supporter does:
The responsibilities involved in being a facilitator
Facilitators support people with the same condition as themselves and help them to manage their condition around their lifestyle. A facilitator may be able to help people to understand where to get more information should they need it, and help provide them with support and encouragement. If need be, they should be able to help them link up with clinical services.
Facilitators have often experienced some of the same issues that peers are experiencing and might be able to help them solve these, while also being able to understand how they might be feeling.
Facilitators’ responsibilities will include:
- Arranging and running meetings with peers
- Providing a supportive environment for peers
- Being a good listener
- Being able to empathise
- Helping peers to share stories and experiences, and in turn sharing their own
- Encouraging peers to make changes in their lives
- Helping peers to explore their barriers to looking after their condition
- Helping peers to access better healthcare by understanding their rights and facilitating ways to access the next step in their healthcare if need be
Their responsibilities will not include:
- Educating peers on their condition
- Reviewing peers’ medications
- Handing out information on their condition
We have found that effective facilitators tend to have the following qualities. Click the arrows for further description:
- Good at listeningIt 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 under the Content page
- EmpatheticThose 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 spiritedEffective 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 tickBeing 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 knowledgeThis 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 othersRunning 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 relation to the point above, too much confidence can be an issue
This means that 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.
Not be prone to over-stating their knowledge.
Sometimes certain things can get in the way of being an effective facilitator. Here are some other things that might make you unsuitable for the role:
- Are you hard of hearing? This might make it difficult to conduct peer support sessions.
- Do you have previous experience in groups? This is not essential, but helps.
- Do you have lots of other commitments?
- Are you in severe bad health which would make the facilitator role particularly difficult?
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 – but then we would need somewhere for them to send it to] [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 incorporated a lot of the first document sent in that email and the last one is on measurement]. [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.