Be an example and support. How peer consultants help others

In 2022, within the framework of the project “Aid route for families with seriously ill children” the School of Equal Consultants of the AiF Foundation operates. Kind heart». 

According to Inga, a peer consultant, her first consultation was for another mother whose situation is very similar. “I just couldn’t resist responding! It is very important to see that someone has already been in this situation — and survived, coped, », — she thinks.

Who are peer consultants?

Peer consultants — these are people who have the same experience as you and are ready to share it. It is commonly thought that peer counseling — it's advice from patient to patient: “I had the same diagnosis, and this is how I coped.” But in fact, such counseling can be absolutely in any field and in any community. To the School of Equal Consultants of the AiF Foundation. Good heart» parents of children with serious illnesses and chronic diagnoses came to the first set.

Every mom had her own reason to apply for studies, and the reason is serious. How else can you find the motivation, strength and time to endure psychological webinars, serious pair work and homework when you are still a full-time mom, doctor, nurse, teacher, cook and even a blogger (all at the same time).

“Many people come to peer counseling in order to somehow close their unlived (and often even unconscious) pain. Once they were not helped, they did not listen, they did not respond — and now I want to help others so that no one else gets into such an unbearable situation, », — said Anastasia Shabaganova, leading psychologist at the Peer Consultant School.

Who can become a peer consultant?

The main tasks of consultants — support and information, and most often people with extensive experience come to this area, who already blog, give advice, and actively share information on social networks. It’s great if the future peer consultant already has legal literacy and medical knowledge, but this alone is not enough. “Psychological stability is also very important. A peer consultant will need to be able to deal with difficult stories and not collapse from the pain of others, — emphasizes Anastasia Shabaganova.

“I understand this pain”

Until the age of 27, Inga worked in large companies as an economist, was married and gave birth to the long-awaited first child, when an epidemic, layoffs, her son's diagnosis and divorce happened in her life at the same time.

“It was a very difficult year. I was left alone, with a child (diagnosed with autism), without work and almost without housing. And all these issues needed to be addressed simultaneously and urgently. It was very difficult to accept the son's diagnosis and it was difficult to be alone with this. And it also began to seem to me that I — like a white crow, no one understands me. But, when I started to recover from a divorce, after a difficult year, I felt that I could listen and be close to those who are also having a hard time, — she says.

Imagine that a family is faced with a terminal illness in a child — shock, grief, denial, confusion. Why the help of a peer consultant may be needed from the very first days? Precisely because the consultant has already gone all this way: he applied for early help, studied modern diagnostic methods, looked for contacts of good doctors and proven rehabilitation therapists, knows everything about the legal problems of obtaining medicines and about patient communities in the region. And this is precisely the invaluable information that even the attending physician cannot always give. A peer consultant can! And he is also able to support step by step, not to let confused parents drown in a sea of ​​new information, he knows how to carefully share his own experience and talk about the results. And sometimes just ready to listen and hold hands. And this is also invaluable help.

“I understand the pain of other moms who come to me. I have already lived it. The task of a peer consultant — to give another person the opportunity to live this pain, being nearby, », — emphasizes Inga.

Invisible parental labor 

Lily's — several thousand subscribers on social networks, and they periodically write to her: “What kind of autism does your son have?” But behind the great progress of her youngest son are hundreds of hours of mother's work and the same amount — study. And she also tries to write about this, so that this invisible parental work is noticeable.

“Any visible improvement requires huge maternal resources. It seems to many who are not in the subject of such diagnoses that if there is a result from classes, then, therefore, the problem was initially small. Therefore, equal counseling — it is also the unity of parents, which gives understanding: I am not alone here, they understand me, my work is visible, — notes Lilia.

Psychologists warn that in the work of peer counselors there is always the danger of secondary retraumatization. When someone's difficult story can cause falling into their own painful experience, which seems to have long been experienced and forgotten. Therefore, such situations require special attention and special work of the consultant on himself, as well as regular supervision with a psychologist. And all this also takes time, strength.

“We are all — parents of special children. It is very difficult to carve out 2-4 hours for study. We had to include children in the process. I watch webinars and study with my five year old son. I draw trains for him, and I myself listen to lectures, — she tells.

Good example

One of the tasks of a peer consultant — to be for another person an example of a positive experience of living in difficult situations and a support in an unstable and crisis situation. And the burnout of parents — this is a serious problem that all helping practitioners regularly face. And if you are the parent of a child with a severe or incurable disease — you are in a special risk group. That is why at the School of Peer Counselors, teachers necessarily give future consultants basic psychological techniques and special techniques that can be used to bring the interlocutor out of an acute crisis state right during a conversation, to ground, calm, switch. A peer consultant needs to be able to work correctly with someone else's pain without destroying himself.

“We help other moms keep their minds under control. Tired — give yourself a break, watch a movie, meet friends, ask relatives to babysit, make time for yourself. Our mothers usually do not allow themselves this. And I tell them to cry — it's okay to burn out — okay, ask for help — okay too, — tells Inga.

There are many reasons for becoming a peer consultant. Someone wants to be an example, inspiration and support for others. It is important for someone to help their parents, who already have great motivation, but do not yet have the necessary knowledge. Someone says that it was peer counseling that helped to find true friends, create a patient community, engage in active self-education, or understand one's place in life. 

«I believe that we always find ourselves where we need to be . And those who need us are next to us, », — she thinks.

School of Peer Consultants of the AiF Foundation. Good heart» is working in 2022 as part of the project “Aid Route for Families with Seriously Ill Children”, implemented at the expense of a grant from the Mayor of Moscow provided by the Public Relations Committee. An application for training can be submitted on the website

AIF. Good heart» helps children and adults with severe and rare diseases. We provide medical, legal and psychological support to wards from the most remote regions. By supporting the — you help not only them, but also their families!

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