Two of our volunteers staff the Walk-In Center as peer counselors for 2 hours, each Saturday and Sunday night. Each session with a client or couple is about 45 minutes.
What is a peer counselor? The word, "peer", means "equal". In this usage, a counselor and a client are on level ground. The counselor is not a therapist and does not provide professional therapy.
As peers, we have the opportunity to share as equals with our clients. This means that, unlike therapists, we can share our personal experiences, so that the client knows there are others who have been through a similar situation.
What does a peer counselor do? Using active listening skills, empathy, and the sharing of experiences, the couselors help the client clarify his/her thoughts and feelings; and explore various options or solutions.
What else can the counselors do? Sometimes clients just come in to talk and that's all they need, but if the clients feel that they might benefit from referrals to other resources, the counselor will discuss with them: short-term peer counseling (8 weekly, 1-hour one-on-one visits), therapists, support groups, and other community resources.
Our outreach is supported by donations from Identity House members and our clients. We do ask for a reasonable donation at the conclusion of the counseling session, but no one is ever turned away because they are unable to donate.
For more information about Identity House or how you can support our work with a donation, please visit our website: www.identityhouse.org.