The "Who," "How," & "Why" of Peer Helpers

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US Counselor George Thompson describes peer helping

George Thompson, US Counselor and faculty advisor to the Peer Helpers, shares this May, 2008 news article about peer helping:

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a dilemma between two of your friends with nobody to help solve it but yourself? Have you ever noticed how often your friends come to you for advice or consolation? Have you ever asked yourself why you are being singled out for this purpose? Do you know the difference between a problem, a crisis, or an emergency?

This spring, the Catlin Gabel Peer Helpers are observing their twelfth anniversary, and the event has snuck up on them! Although alert and outgoing by nature, Peer Helpers are unaware of their own success as an organization, or their impact on the Catlin Gabel Community. Given the nature of what they do, This is probably as it should be.

In these past twelve years, Catlin’s Peer Helpers and their faculty advisors have dedicated themselves to the welfare, morale, and safety of their friends and schoolmates, and they represent virtually every social and interest group in the School. To fulfill the goal of supporting their friends, their presence in the school community has been a quiet one. The volunteer attracted to peer helping has been a person who wants to become a good listener, a solver of problems, and someone in whom others can safely confide.

Peer Helpers are self selected, and to join one has simply to commit to the time necessary to train with a weekly group for the year. These regular training meetings convene according to the schedule chosen by the six or seven people who comprise each small group. The whole membership varies between thirty-five and forty students from all four classes, and it meets regularly for the October Retreat, occasional planning meetings, and two annual evening sessions. Volunteers understand that to become Peer Helpers, they have merely to be who they already are and the training they receive involves the refinement of skills they naturally possess.

In the spring of 1998, a group of Peer Helpers met to define the Group’s Mission. Following several meetings, the Group selected the following statements as an accurate description of our purpose:

Catlin-Gabel School Peer Helpers’ Mission Statement: Peer helpers are naturally caring people. They are trained to be good listeners, ready to adopt an attitude that is both alert and non-judgmental. Peer helpers are prepared to guide their friends and fellow students to find their own solutions to problems. They understand that to have this happen is preferable and more effective than for people to have advice imposed upon them. Peer helpers know when to refer a student with a problem to another source of assistance. They understand both the limits and requirements of confidentiality.