The term peer support describes the process of mutual provision of knowledge, help and emotional empowerment among people who bear the same status, e.g. among students of beneficiaries of a certain service. The distinguishing characteristic of peer support is that the source of support is a peer that holds an equal status with the rest of the group members and is not in a superior or “expert” position. In fact, peer support is a methodology that can be applied in several contexts, most notably within the educational system or health settings with a common aim: the empowerment of the group by the group itself.
In the educational context, peer support can take the following forms:
- Peer mentoring: an older students assumes the role of mentor for the younger ones.
- Peer listening: students are trained to active listening and effective communication within the school community.
In the health context, peer support has the following applications:
- In addiction care, where users try to overcome substance abuse.
- In disability settings, where people with disabilities provide support to each other.
- In chronic illness and pain management, where patients can share the difficulties.
- In trauma survivors.
- In anxiety and mood disorders, especially in the context of group therapy.
Peer support is a methodology that has mutual positive impact on both the supporters and the supported ones as these are roles which are constantly exchanged among the members of the peer support groups.