This training program has been developed in consultation with the subject experts: Consumer/Survivor Initiatives and Peer Support Organizations across Ontario. Its focus is on strengthening and nurturing what is at the core of peer support.
PeerWorks defines peer support as follows:
Peer Support is a naturally occurring, mutually beneficial support process, where people who share a common experience meet as equals, sharing skills, strengths and hope; learning from each other how to cope, thrive and flourish.
Formalized Peer Support begins when persons with lived experience who have received specialized training, assume unique, designated roles within the mental health system, to support an individual’s expressed wishes.
Specialized Peer Support training is Peer developed, delivered and endorsed by Consumer/Survivor Initiatives*, Peer Support Organizations* and Patient Councils, and is rooted in principles of recovery, hope and individual empowerment.
* Consumer Survivor Initiatives and Peer Support Organizations are community-based, self-help organizations run by and for consumer/survivors.
Note: This definition of peer support was developed through the focus group/workshop/piloting process of creating the PeerWorks Peer Support Core Essentials™ Program. A draft was workshopped in a member consultation in 2010, further refined by a member working group, then adopted by electronic vote of the membership. We welcome and encourage you to use or reference this definition or provide links to this page, providing that PeerWorks is credited and the definition is provided unedited and in its entirety.
For over 20 years, people and communities have benefited by becoming involved with our member groups to experience peer support in a variety of ways:
Through personal interaction with others who have ‘been there, done that’ when they gather in our members’ drop-ins, resource centres, or social/recreational programs.
Peer support at this level, as described in the first paragraph of our definition, is much like any healthy friendship.
Where staff or volunteers connect with peers by phone, facilitate diagnosis-specific or issue-driven support groups, or organize “buddy matching” or “mentoring” relationships.
Several member groups contract out peer workers to other local health services PeerWorks, through the above definition, posits that support at this level requires workers with a solid basic training, and accountability to a reputable peer support program.
By Training Members
Whether training is developed internally, or through engagement of trainers from various recognized training providers. A few train peer workers for other programs in their communities.
Some of PeerWorks’s members offer trainings of their own creation locally, or bring in other franchise training programs. Please see “Our Members” pages where those with training programs may have descriptions of their offerings, or call the member nearest you to find out what may be available.
It is the position of PeerWorks and its membership that peer support training should be created and taught by peers, to peers (people who themselves have, or have had, a mental health issue) and that programs organizing training should use only trainers who are authorized by the training institutes.
PeerWorks Peer Support Core Essentials Program
Most of our members have a 20+ year track record of providing excellent peer support, and in some cases peer training. Still, as the evidence grew showing peer support to be extremely effective in terms of outcomes and return on investment, it became clear that expanding interest and demand would require more consistency in peer training. Members asked for the creation of a training program in 2005, and we were successful in securing two-year funds from Ontario Trillium Foundation in 2008.
We engaged a consultant group who conducted an extensive consultative process to identify what was needed, drafted a training program complete with train the trainer, and piloted/adjusted the curriculum at two intervals. An independent contractor evaluated the training with participants and trainers, and this informed further refinements to the program.
Ten individuals completed trainer training, and it was they who delivered training, with support and supervision, to most of the others. In March of 2012 we began training another seven trainers. Through this process, we have assembled an incredible group of trainers.
As of Summer 2017, we have eight trainers at our disposal, and have done further trainer skills development work with them, first by requiring them to pass the Peer Support Canada examination and supporting them to complete the PSC certificate, and through regular meetings of a trainer Community of Practice. The training program is constantly updated and improved based on trainers comparing their experiences, staff monitoring participant internship/practicums, and on evaluation surveys that every participant has the opportunity to complete.
Since its inception, this training has been provided to more than 600 participants, including some who have traveled from out of province. PeerWorks training has been identified as a requirement for peer supporters in two LHIN regions, as well as at some organizations in other LHINs.
We have recently updated our training program and transformed it into a more accessible, online module. This new module has 17 two-hour webinars. These synchronous sessions include individual exercises, group exercises, trainer-led discussion, and role playing. Outside of these sessions, there is homework, which involves readings, reflections, and skills practice. We are launching the pilot of our updated program in the Summer of 2021.
About the Program
PeerWorks Peer Support Core Essentials™ Program is just that – a solid foundational training for peer supporters.
This training program has been developed in consultation with the subject experts: Consumer/Survivor Initiatives and Peer Support Organizations across Ontario. Its focus is on strengthening and nurturing what is at the core of peer support: the peer supporter.
PeerWorks Peer Support Core Essentials™ Program involves 17 two-hour live webinars led by PSC certified trainers. These interactive sessions include individual exercises, group exercises, trainer-led discussion, and role playing. Outside of these sessions there is some homework, which includes readings, reflections, and skills practice. Attendance is mandatory at all 17 webinars.
It should be noted that taking this training does not guarantee everyone an automatic “pass”. Participants are evaluated by the trainers, and the outcomes can range from “Incomplete” to “Level 1”, “Level 1R” and eventually earning “PeerWorks Certified Peer Supporter”.
Level 1 means the person attended and participated fully in the training and is deemed at this point appropriate to deliver an informal friendship style of peer support within supervised settings that would correspond with the first three categories in the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Continuum of Peer Support, up to and including a C/SI or PSO. Level 1R means that the trainers are of the opinion the participant may be ready to work in a more formalized setting, and are Recommending that they proceed to an internship or practicum in which they deliver 50 hours of person to person support which is monitored and evaluated. It is not mandatory to do the practicum, but it is necessary for those who wish to earn the PeerWorks Certified Peer Supporter certificate.
Note: This training does not attempt to be all things to all people. Some peer support roles require specialized skills that are not required in most settings. Other topics that might be important in many settings, require more intensive training beyond basics. For these reasons, this training focuses on the core skills, introducing such topics and pointing toward other learning resources. Diagnostic and pharmaceutical information is readily available,constantly changing, and of limited relevance to peer support relationships, therefore in response to member wishes are not included in this training. PeerWorks will seek funding and partnership opportunities to develop additional modules and continuing education pieces for specific skills or settings.
Defining Peer Support
Benefits of Peer Support
Seven Dimensions of Wellness
Role of Peer Supporter in Wellness
Origins of Peer Support
Social Determinants of Health
Identify and Apply Boundaries
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Cultural Humility and Cultural Competency
Beginning the Relationship
Ending the Relationship and Transitions
Communities of Practice
Trauma and Trauma Informed
Eating Disorder Informed
Advocacy and Self-advocacy
Peer Support in Different Environments
Online and In Person
Wrap up and next steps
My training experience was top-notch. I learned so much. It affirmed for me that I want to support others in their recovery, and also make positive contributions to the health system. – PeerWorks Level 1r Graduate
I have previously taken a peer support course – I found this course more intense, more informative and I liked the fact that we were assigned homework which had to be handed in. – Anonymous
My local training was… more prescriptive, more didactic, more of “listen while the trainer lectures”. This was more interactive or creative. – PeerWorks Level 1r Graduate