Written by Guest Blogger Karen Walker, Peer Education Intern
When presenting a Just Say Know module, Peer Educators are likely to have audience members asking questions and seeking guidance about their own or a loved one’s drug use. When instances like this occur, the facilitators will know that they have successfully created an open and honest environment. However, the Peer Educators must remember that they are facilitating a connection to resources, rather than providing clinical or professional guidance or services. If you do not know the answer to something, say so! Refer the person to sources of information that best suit their needs using Just Say Know modules, the Training Curriculum, and external campus and community resources. Doing so will benefit the greater campus community by fostering a campus that is more informed and open to discussion. It is no surprise to SSDPers that stigma influences any discussion about drug use or drug policy. Ideas that are introduced by SSDP Peer Educators or other audience members might be met with resistance. Learn to fully listen to others and understand their perspectives. Ask open ended questions, use the same language that they use, and reiterate what you hear in order to demonstrate that both parties are being understood. Learning to effectively listen and share your own experiences will encourage others to do the same. Developing comprehensive listening skills before engaging in a Peer Education session can turn potential conflict into a conversation that benefits all. Sharing stories about drug use can be emotionally charged, highly personal, and make one feel vulnerable. However, sharing stories can be an effective way to come to a shared understanding and empathize with one another. Allowing someone to see things from your perspective and circumstances can shift others’ perspectives toward something they had not previously considered; the same can be said about oneself when listening to others’ stories. This is especially true on topics as highly stigmatized as drug use, where stigma has oftentimes silenced discussion. Peer Educators are equipped with countless resources that comprise their knowledge base. However, Peer Educators are not professionals and should expect to run into questions and concerns that they are unable to address on their own. When the need for a referral occurs, be sure to maintain a positive attitude and come from a place of support. Simply admitting that you are not an expert and that someone else might be better suited to assist them may be a sufficient way to address a situation like this. Identify the best fitting resource and encourage the student to follow-up with that resource. Being fully prepared for a session, while knowing one’s own limitations as a Peer Educator, will ensure that the session is beneficial, honest, and will resonate with those in attendance. You can get 15 points for responding to the Reflection Questions from this Training Curriculum module. Check out ssdp.org/justsayknow for more information on peer education! Interested in earning CAT points and getting involved?
- What are some questions you can ask to identify why people want to talk to you?
- What are some helpful things to say in response?
- How would you refer someone to a resource?