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Peer Selection (From Treating Police Stress: The Work and the Words of Peer Counselors, P 121-124, 2002, John M. Madonna, Jr. and Richard E. Kelly, -- See NCJ-197081)

NCJ Number
Richard Kelly
Date Published
4 pages
This chapter reports on the views of some police peer counselors regarding the qualities and education required to be an effective peer counselor in a police agency.
The peer counselors interviewed indicated several common requirements for peer counselors. They include recognizable credibility, proper motivation for the work, street-time experience as an officer, empathy, good listening skills, and trustworthiness. Prior experience in counseling-related settings and various educational studies are viewed as valuable, but not required, at least for selection. The most important factors for selection as a peer counselor come under the general category of "credibility." The test of the credible peer counselor is being approachable or even inviting for the sharing of personal thoughts or feelings by police officers who are by nature, training, culture, and experience resistant to introspection and verbalization. Credibility with fellow officers inevitably includes street-time experience as a police officer. This increases the likelihood that the peer counselor can relate directly to the experiences expressed to them by troubled colleagues; and it also increases the likelihood that the counselor can understand the unique characteristics of the world of policing, along with its politics and pressures. Having been through traumatic experiences can benefit a peer counselor, so long as personal recovery is not so new or incomplete as to be aggravated by vicarious exposure to the experiences of other officers who come for counseling. Topic areas in which knowledge is useful are psychology, sociology, social work, critical incident stress, and grief. The abilities to be stable, calm, unrattled, and a good problem-solver were identified as recommended skills and attitudes. Work as a peer counselor is viewed as more difficult for women, mostly due to unresolved gender issues in police work which can affect counselor credibility.