For many years, first responders often were treated after a traumatic incident using a technique called the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD). This approach is most often conducted in a group format where participants receive education concerning posttraumatic distress, express and hear about one another’s trauma experiences, and are provided with referral information for on-going treatment if necessary. In the past decade, CISD has come under increasing scrutiny as the scientific community has reported that this method may not be effective and, in some cases, may be more harmful to first responders than no intervention at all. An alternative approach to CISD is a preventive peer support program that trains volunteer first responders in basic counseling skills and gives them the knowledge they need to identify individuals with posttraumatic difficulties and guide them to seek appropriate treatment.
The CU Trauma, Health, and Hazards Center provides a variety of services designed to build awareness among all first responder department personnel, cultivate and train new peer supporters, and provide ongoing training and consultation with existing peer supporters. These services are highlighted below.
Contact the THHC for further information and for pricing details (719-255-3843 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Training Peer Supporters
The THHC will provide training for new peer supporters. The basic course is one-week (five-day, 40 hour) which culminates in certifying the individual as a peer counselor. Topics covered in the course include:
The course can be held at the university or a location specified by the department. Employees interested in serving as a peer counselor should go through an application/acceptance process in advance of the training. The minimum number of trainees per class is eight and the maximum per class is usually 12, though exceptions can be made. The sponsoring department must notify the THHC of its intent to hold a peer counselor training course at least 30 days before the course is to be held.
Supervision of Peer Supporters
The THHC will provide oversight and supervision of the peer supporters for an annual fee. The peer supporters will meet with THHC clinical staff once each quarter to discuss the program’s progress, address counseling issues and practice techniques, and share feedback from peers about ways to improve the program. Additional support services provided as part of this annual fee are described in the section below entitled "Program Support".
Annual Training for Existing Peer Supporters
In order to maintain their status as peer supporters, individuals may attend a six-hour training annually to refresh their skills and learn new techniques. This training would be provided at a per person rate. This training may be held at the department or the university at a date and time agreed to by the CSFD and the THHC.
Lectures for Employees
The THHC is available to provide posttraumatic stress prevention class to existing personnel or to new personnel as part of their training/hiring process. These two, three-hour sessions would be presented at the department at times chosen by the department. This service would be provided at a per-session, to a maximum group of 50 employees at a time.
To view a viedo about the Peer Support program, click here.