Levels of Training
PSPs usually have two levels of training. Easton-Snelgrove Inc.’s Inc.’s training programs are currently designed for Level 1.
Level 1 addresses the needs of staff that have experienced critical incidents and/or other highly stressful situations. It will review the protocol for interventions as well as the fundamentals of managing a traumatic situation.
Level 2 builds on the skills and experience of Level 1 and focuses on responding to personal problems that interfere with one’s ability to function in the workplace.
Peers can be trained to various levels of clinical competence. In some work environments they are trauma responders. In this role they respond to the impact of shocking events or critical incidents, providing psychosocial support and guidance. Peers may also be trained as referral agents. In this role they provide information on outside resources for those seeking a variety of services. Such services could include psychological, legal or financial help. In other work environments peers are counsellors offering on-going help to those with personal problems. In this case, peers have advanced psychosocial skills and knowledge.
Level 1 Peer Support Personnel Programme
The general purpose of a Level 1 peer-support personnel programme is to increase one’s knowledge and skill as a workplace family member assisting a colleague who has experienced an emotionally distressing or shocking event (often called a critical incident), and to deal with the problems arising from cumulative stress. A critical incident is a work-related event that affects a colleague’s ability to function on the job and/or negatively affects their personal life. Essentially, the incident affects the worker to the point that s/he may question his/her ability, become preoccupied with the incident, experience personal distress and, in the case of exceptional incidents, not be able to function at work.
Critical incidents can be directly experienced, witnessed or indirectly experienced. Directly experienced incidents would include being assaulted, robbed or injured, or making a professional error that results in professional vulnerability. A witnessed event means observing such an incident (or the aftermath of an event) occurring to another person. Indirectly experienced incidents refer to those situations when you have learned that an incident has occurred but have had no direct experience of the incident. Moreover, each workplace and occupation generates situations that may create critical incident stress.
In most cases, a positive connection with a work colleague can prevent the colleague from feeling alone and unsupported. However, if the individual is concerned that what they say during a support session could be occupationally problematic (e.g., “I think I screwed up!”) and possibly result in a negative consequence (e.g., discipline), then it is important that someone who works at the same occupational level provide the post-incident support. It is also important to receive support from superiors. However, it is crucial that the employee has the opportunity to emotionally talk it out with an occupational equal or work peer.
Level 1 peer support training is designed to teach you how to connect with your peers after such an event. Most often this support will be provided in the form of an individual peer intervention, sometimes called a peer defusing. Your role as a peer intervenor will be to offer your personal support as a caring colleague, and to provide some information on how those affected can deal with the stress associated with the critical incident.
Level 2 Peer Support Programme
The general purpose of a Level 2 peer support training programme is to increase one’s knowledge and skill as a workplace family member in assisting a colleague who is experiencing an on-going personal problem based at work or in the home. The main focus will be on burnout, cumulative stress, general problems and interpersonal tensions.
A personal problem is a psychosocial state wherein a personal or interpersonal condition has resulted in intrapersonal (inner psychological state) or interpersonal distress. Such distress could arise from an on-going health problem, a recent life-threatening diagnosis, harassment at work, substance addiction, relationship problems or a critical incident that has not been managed properly. The problem remains unresolved and the impact of the problem interferes with the individual’s personal and/or professional life.
In most cases, peers will respond to requests for help from a co-worker. However, the training will also address situations where the peer will be proactive and initiate the contact. Essentially, your role will be to offer a listening ear and direction on how to deal with their personal problem. Your role is not one of therapist or counsellor.
The presence of trained peers in the work environment increases the possibility of two things: First, it increases the chances that the co-worker will reach out for help if seeking outside professional help causes anxiety or is logistically difficult. Secondly, it increases the probability that a knowledgeable colleague (i.e., peer support person) will proactively intervene with support and direction when it is obvious that a co-worker is in distress. Either way, it reduces the chances that the problem will simply be overlooked or ignored.
Easton-Snelgrove Inc. currently offers level 1 through the following course: PTM-3, PTM-6 and PTM-7.