Skip main navigation

What does good peer support look like?

Some guiding principles for peer support

On Step One, we introduced the idea of peer support. Peer support is a range of approaches through which people with a similar long-term condition or health experience support each other to better understand their condition or situation and aid recovery or self-management.

Peer support can be offered in different ways – formal or informal, paid or unpaid. It can be delivered by trained peer support staff and volunteers, or through more informal, ad hoc support among peers with lived experience. It can also be online or face to face and individually or in groups. This week, we’ll mainly be focussing on supporting people formally or informally on a 1:1 basis.

Let’s imagine a friend has asked you to support someone they know who has just been diagnosed with the same health condition as you. What are some of the things you need to pay attention to in order to offer good peer support ?

Here’s some guiding principles for peer support.

Mutual Peer support is based on shared experiences. One of the keys to peer support is empathy. Empathy means listening to another person talk about their experiences and trying to understand what their experience is like. It’s not assuming that because you both have the same health condition your experience, feelings or priorities will be the same.

Non-directive simply means not telling another person what to do! It also means not prescribing what is ‘good for’ them, but helps them recognise their own resources and seek their own solutions.

Strengths based This links to being non-directive. It’s important to focus on people’s own strengths and skills and how they can use them to pursue what matters to them.

Reciprocal This recognises that when you help someone, there is something in the relationship for both of you. You both gain from the shared process of problem solving, sharing and exploring new ideas.

Safe Good peer support will always promote emotional safety. This often comes from maintaining confidentiality, demonstrating compassion, being authentic and non-judgmental and acknowledging that neither of you have all the answers.

If you are involved in peer support within a group, you will also need to pay attention to:

Being inclusive This means being open and welcoming to all members of the community and working to ensure that any barriers to access (whether physical or cultural) are considered and, where possible, mitigated.

This article is from the free online

Personalised Care: Peer Leadership Foundation - Step Two

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now