The School Counselor and Peer Support Programs
(Adopted 1978; Revised 1984, 1993, 1999, 2002, 2008, 2015, 2021)
ASCA PositionPeer support programs help students develop an improved sense of well-being, social confidence and health behaviors (Curren & Wexler, 2016). The informed implementation of peer support programs enhances the effectiveness of school counseling programs and provides increased outreach and expansion of services.
The RationaleDevelopment of relational peer networks in schools can improve students’ academic achievement and social supports (Williams et al., 2018). Specifically, peer support programs can be defined as peer-to-peer interaction in which individuals who are of approximately the same age take on a helping role, assisting students who may share related values, experiences and lifestyles. Peer support programs include activities such as assistance in one-to-one and group settings, academic/educational help, new student aid and other diverse activities of an interpersonal helping nature.
School counselors are aware that students often communicate more readily to peers than adults. Peer support programs can enhance the effectiveness of school counseling programs by increasing outreach and raising student awareness of services. Through proper selection, training and supervision, peer support can be a positive influence within the school and community. Research indicates peer support programs are helpful when focused on assisting students with social/emotional or academic problems and disabilities (Logsdon, et al., 2018), while promoting protective factors (e.g., developmental assets determined by the Search Institute). Peer support programs can also help create a positive school culture and connectedness to the school community for both mentors and mentees (Voight & Nation, 2016) as well as safer schools (Walker, 2019).
The School Counselor's RoleSchool counselors are responsible for determining the needs of the school population and for implementing interventions designed to meet those needs, such as peer support programs. In collaboration with school staff, school counselors:
- follow the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors as they relate to peer support programs, including safeguarding the welfare of students participating in peer support programs and providing appropriate training and supervision for peer helpers (ASCA, 2022; QPR, 2019)
- use best practices when developing and implementing peer support programs (Berger, et al., 2018)
- create a selection plan for peer helpers reflecting the diversity of the population to be served
- develop a support system for the program that communicates the program’s goals and purpose through positive public relations
- monitor, assess and adjust the program and training on a continual basis to meet the assessed needs of the school population the programserves
- report results to all school stakeholders (e.g., students, teachers, administrators, parents, community)
SummarySchool counselors understand and build upon the positive effects of peer support programs on students, the school climate and culture, as well as the school connectedness of students involved. School counselors also understand their unique responsibilities when peer-support programs are implemented, including ensuring students are properly trained, supervised and supported in their role.
ReferencesAmerican School Counselor Association. (2022). ASCA ethical standards for school counselors. Alexandria, VA: Author.
Berger, J., Black, D.R., & Routson, S. (2018). 2018 revised NAPPP programmatic standards rubric. Perspectives in Peer Programs, 28(1), 18-59. Retrieved from: http://www.peerprogramprofessionals.org/uploads/3/4/7/4/34744081/persinpeerprogv28_1_.pdf .
Curran, T., & Wexler, L. (2017). School-based positive youth development: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of School Health, 87(1), 71-80.
Logsdon, P., Samudre, M., Kleinert, H., & University of Kentucky, H. D. I. (2018). A Qualitative Study of the Impact of Peer Networks and Peer Support Arrangements in Project Pilot Schools. Research Brief. Winter 2018. Human Development Institute.
QPR Institute (2019). QPR Training for Youth Guidelines: Policies and Procedures. https://qprinstitute.com/uploads/instructor/QPR-Training-for-Youth-Guidelines-2019.pdf
Search Institute. (2006). Developmental Assets. https://www.search-institute.org/our-research/development-assets/developmental-assets-framework/
Voight, A. & Nation, M. (2016). Practices for improving secondary school climate: A systematic review of the research Literature. American Journal of Community Psychology 58, 174-191.
Walker, T. (2019, November 14). Peer programs helping schools tackle student depression, anxiety. National Education Association. https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/peer-programs-helping-schools-tackle-student-depression-anxiety
Williams, J.M., Greenleaf, A. T., Barnes, E. F., & Scott, T. R. (2019). High-achieving, low-income students’ perspectives of how schools can promote the academic achievement of students living in poverty. Improving Schools, 22(3), 224-236. https://doi.org/10.1177/1365480218821501
*Note this position statement includes minor updates to reflect the revisions to the 2022 ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors.