7.9. Peer Counseling Services, Programs and Referrals
Peer counseling services and programs are provided directly or through referrals to Veterans Service Organizations (VSO), community-based peer counseling programs, etc. VA or community-based peer counseling programs assist Veterans with SCI/D and their family adjust to new onset disability; understand the rehabilitation process; develop new social skills and relationships; and transition to community living. Peer counselors serve as role models by sharing experiences and practical suggestions regarding living with a disability, listening to the concerns of the individual, and responding in such a way as to facilitate the rehabilitation process and enhance quality of life.
Coordinator for Peer Counseling. The coordinator for peer counseling services, programs, or referrals must be an SCI social worker or psychologist. When the SCI Center provides peer counseling services rather than establishing links or referrals with other peer counseling services and programs, the coordinator recruits, screens, and trains persons to:
Serve as peer counselors;
Identify appropriate Veterans for participation;
Monitor the involvement of peer counselors;
Serve as the liaison between peer counselors, community peer counselors, and Voluntary Service; and
Communicate issues and problems to the Chief, SCI Service.
Role Models. It has been demonstrated that peer counseling is an effective approach in helping Veterans with SCI/D adapt to their injuries. Many times talking with "someone who has been there" offers the Veteran some insight and practical suggestions in dealing with a variety of problems. It is important to use good role models (e.g., Veterans who are employed, involved in meaningful and productive daily routines, involved in successful interpersonal relationships, and who have a generally constructive lifestyle). NOTE: Referrals to community support groups (such as VSOs, Able-Disabled) are also a viable option.