How To Prepare For Peer Support Training: An Inside Look

If you are getting ready to take peer support training, you might wonder what to expect and how to succeed in the classes. Depending on what state you are in, the length and pace of the training may be different.

Even so, these tips will help get you prepared to make the most of your training. 

Preparing For The Training

Ok, so before you attend your peer support training there are a few things you can do to maximize your learning experience. Here are two things you might consider. 

Gathering The Necessary Resources

To make the most of your peer support training experience, take some time to gather the necessary resources you need to support effective learning.

Of course, this includes making sure you have your training handbook, along with pen, paper, or some way to take notes.

(Be sure to check out the resources here at MHAPSS!)

Study material for peer support training

Also, if you know someone who has been through the training, you might ask them what they found most helpful, and what was the most difficult to understand. This way you can look into those topics beforehand and be ahead of the curve. 

Make Sure You Are Rested

It should go without saying, but make sure that you are getting enough sleep and eating breakfast before your training day. Many of the peer support training programs are intensive all day sessions that last for 8 hours at a time. 

They do give breaks but you don’t want to be falling asleep and missing key points during training. This is especially important if you are taking the training online. Sitting at home on your couch it can be easy to get comfortable and fall asleep.

In fact, I actually saw someone fall asleep during my own training!

Taking The Peer Support Training

So, your well rested and you’ve got all the necessary resources together, now what? Well, there are some things to consider when you finally do take the peer support training. Keep the following in mind and you will walk away with the most for your time. 

Active Participation During Training Sessions

Active participation during training sessions is the most important aspect of the process. If you are shy this might be a challenge. However, engaging in the discussion and the different role playing exercises is the best way to maximize your peer support training.

Doing so allows you to get a better understanding of the material. More importantly, you can get constructive feedback that will help you in your new role. 

Engage With Trainers And Peers

Take an active role in discussions and different activities during your training sessions. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions openly.

Interacting with the group not only enriches the learning experience for everyone involved but also encourages collaboration and allows for different perspectives.

By engaging and being receptive to their insights, you will broaden your understanding of effective peer support.

engaging during peer support training

Ask Questions And Seek Clarification

Don’t hesitate to ask questions when something is unclear or you need further explanation. The trainers are there to help you. Besides, chances are, you are not the only one who is unsure about the subject.

You give everyone the chance to get a deeper understanding when you ask questions about the material. Moreover, you ensure that you fully comprehend the concepts being taught and can apply them effectively in real-life scenarios. 

Engaging in Role Playing During The Training

The true value of peer support training lies in its practical application. To practice this, you will be given a chance to participate in role playing during your training.

While it may seem intimidating, it will give you an opportunity to apply what you have just learned in an active way. More importantly, it will give you the experience and confidence to use those skills in real-life situations. 

Here are a few things that will help you make the most of the role-playing scenarios during your training. 

Practice Active Listening

Active listening is a fundamental skill in peer support. Practice active listening by fully focusing on the person speaking, and paying attention to their verbal and non-verbal cues. Try not to think about what you are going to say in response and just concentrate on what they are trying to communicate. 

The urge to respond or to share our own life experiences can sometimes get in the way of active listening. Which in turn, can have a negative impact on the supportive relationship.

Practicing this during role-playing can be extremely helpful and allow you to improve your active listening skills. 

“Listening is about being present, not just about being quiet.”

Offering Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback is another vital role in peer support. Again, practicing this skill during your training will help you apply it to real-life situations in a more effective way.

When providing feedback, be specific, respectful, and supportive. Highlight areas of strength and suggest areas for improvement. 

Remember, constructive feedback does not mean telling someone what he or she should do. Rather, it helps individuals identify their strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to grow and develop their skills further.

Taking Notes Throughout the Training

As with any learning experience, taking notes will help you make the most of your training and give you something to refer back to should you have questions or need to remember something later.

You might be thinking, “Alright, I know how to take notes, why include this?”.

The truth is, taking notes is an art. To do so effectively, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind. 

Don’t Write Word For Word What You Hear

When taking notes, many people will write down word for word little bits of what that they hear. The problem is, when you do this you end up with a bunch of random bits of information that you have to try and make sense of later.

Additionally, the time you spend writing, you might miss out on other key points that tie the concept together. 

To take notes effectively, you should be writing down the concepts and ideas in your own words. As each new idea comes along, listen closely and then write down the basic idea in a few words of your own.

After your training, while the information is fresh, you can go back and add context to the ideas you wrote down. 

You have to make your own condensed notes. You learn from MAKING them. A lot of thinking goes into deciding what to include and exclude. You develop your own system of abbreviations and memory methods for the information.

Write Your Notes By Hand

Taking notes on a laptop may be faster, this much is true. However, doing so reduces the amount of information that you will retain afterward.

The truth is, you can type much faster than you can write. Going back to our first tip, if you are simply writing word for word what is being said, you miss the opportunity to process the idea and express it in your own words. 

taking notes during peer support training

Reflecting On the Training and Experience

After your training, it is worthwhile to take a few minutes and reflect on what you have learned and the material you covered. Yes, it will require a few extra minutes of your time but the benefits outweigh any added effort.

Moreover, it gives you time to go back and add relevant information to the notes you took (by hand)!

Self-Evaluation And Improvement

After each training session assess your understanding of what was covered. Reflect on your interactions, strengths, and any areas you might need to revisit. Be sure to make note of them on a piece of paper.

This way you will remember any questions you have during your next session.

If you are in contact with any of the other members of the peer support training, you can get together and discuss the material.

Sometimes these smaller discussions can give you a better understanding when you hear it from another person’s perspective.

Plus, it gives you the chance to provide your own and possibly help the other person. 

Overcoming Challenges in Peer Support Training

Peer support training may present challenges along the way. You may have conflicts within your schedule or emergencies that you need to attend to. Alternatively, you might have to deal with difficult situations or individuals, which can be particularly demanding.

Here are a few strategies that might help you out should these challenges arise. 

Scheduling Problems

Life is busy and it doesn’t stop just because we have a training session. Try to make sure that you don’t have any appointments or responsibilities during your training hours.

Also, if you are taking the training online, let your friends and family know that you will need to have the room for training and ask to not be interrupted. 

That being said, if something does come up that needs your immediate attention, be open with your trainers and let them know what is going on. Most likely they will try to work with you if possible.

Similarly, if you know there will be a conflict in your schedule, reach out to your trainer or the organization doing the training as soon as possible.

Dealing With Difficult Situations Or Individuals

While I don’t think that this is something you should worry about, there is the chance that you may have to deal with difficult situations or individuals. If you find yourself in one of these situations during your peer support training, remain calm and composed.

Utilize the skills have learned during your training to defuse tense situations and navigate conflicts constructively. 

Remember, each challenge presents an opportunity for growth and learning. This can serve as practice for handling these kinds of situations in the real world.

Besides, if there is someone who is disrespectful or causing issues in the group, your trainers will most likely address the problem. 

Seeking Feedback And Mentorship

Feedback from others is a priceless resource. After the peer support training is complete, seek out feedback from trainers, supervisors, or experienced peers. Their insights can provide valuable guidance to refine your skills and expand your knowledge.

More importantly, the can give you their real world experience about certain ideas and concepts you will have covered in your training. 

If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.

Additionally, consider finding a mentor who can offer ongoing support.

As you take on your new role, you can share your experiences and they can provide guidance as you continue your peer support journey. 

If you already have a good relationship with someone who has experience, this would be a good place to start looking. Otherwise, you might ask around and see if anyone might be willing to give you a few minutes of their time now and then. 

Don't Be Afraid To Reach Out

If asking people you don’t know sounds intimidating, remember, peer support is a community. Most people are generous with their time and would be happy to pass on their knowledge and experience.

Alternatively, feel free to reach out to us here at MHAPSS. Not only would we be willing to offer our time and expertise, but we would love to get to the members of our community. 

We are happy to support you in your new career as a peer support specialist.

Don't Worry Your Going To Do Great!

Getting the most out of your peer support training will require some preparation on your part. Active participation and honest communication are your most valuable assets during this time. At the end of the day, you will get out what you put in. 

For the most part, it is a fairly simple and straightforward process. As long as you are following along with the material and engaging at every opportunity, We have no doubt that you will do great. 

Keep Learning

Remember, peer support is a continuous learning experience. Even after you finish your training, you will be learning new skills and developing new perspectives each day. Keep an open mind as you move into your new role and you will find yourself learning on a continuous basis.

Once you finish your training, stop by our site and let us know how you did! We wish you the best on all your new adventures and hope you will share your successes with us.


Elijah Meason


Elijah Meason is a Certified Peer Support Worker in the State of New Mexico. He is a SMART Recovery facilitator and is working toward getting his Masters degree in social work. He is currently working at a dual diagnosis treatment center helping individuals overcome mental health and addiction challenges.

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14 Discussion Topics for Peer Support Groups

Download a free set of 14 group discussion topics and never run out of things to talk about! Each topic includes suggestions for taking the discussion a little deeper, as well as additional resources. 

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