Fundamentals of good peer support: strengthening communication skills

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This discussion paper briefly describes how communication skills are a core competency for peer supporters that engage patients in managing their long term conditions.  It describes the different communication skills that are particularly important in this context and approaches to developing them.

It identifies as key active listening (where peer supporters use open-ended questions, reflect feelings, and provide affirmations) and story telling (through which peer supporters can reinforce their peer identity and build bridges that transcend culture, age, and social status, model positive behaviors and motivate peers in their own self-care).  The article also discusses the importance of communication skills that often receive less focus, such as non-verbal communication and skills that focus on empowerment, encouragement and building motivation, such as Motivational Interviewing.

It explores some of the challenges of providing training and development to peer supporters who are non-traditional or adult learners, and have various levels of education and approaches that can help.

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