Peer Support

Our lived experience has real value. We have learned how to meet tough life challenges and can share what we learn to support others.

Opening the Circle

Peer support takes place when people share knowledge, experience, emotional, social or practical help with each other for the purpose of support. It can be as informal as going for coffee or a service that some agencies provide. Peer support is a mutual relationship between peers that is based on having shared lived experience of sexual violence.[See: Opening the Circle – a survivor led project to create community-based supports in Ontario]

Peer support allows people to connect and meet where they ‘are’ with a willingness to share authentically and provide help and support. A peer supporter will walk with you, encourage your personal growth to help you heal and feel empowered in your life. Good peer support is not about ‘fixing’ you or ‘solving’ your problems for you. It’s not therapy but many will say it has strong therapeutic value.


When I engage with a peer support person I can expect to:

  • Be provided with support either without or as a complement to any other services and supports that I may be engaged with including conventional, alternative, spiritual or cultural services
  • Be supported in maintaining or connecting with appropriate services if needed
  • Be treated ethically at all times according to the peer support ethics
  • Have a relationship that strives to embody dignity, respect, patience and compassion
  • Take responsibility for my own healing
  • Share my experiences honestly with someone who meets me where I am at and doesn’t judge me
  • Experience emotional and physical safety
  • Have my confidentiality respected except if I am a danger to myself or others, or if children are at risk of harm
  • Be supported to make decisions that are right for me
  • Be able to count on my peer supporter to do their best to follow through with his or her commitments to me
  • Be able to freely address any issues or concerns and be supported to work through any challenges
  • Have my concerns respected and to be supported to transition to another peer supporter if the relationship is not life-giving


Personal integrity and ethical and trustworthy attitudes and actions are the foundation of good peer support.

This means that as a peer support, I:

  • Look after myself with good self-care, understanding that hearing other people’s stories has impact and carries trauma
  • Do nothing to harm the person or undermine their healing
  • Don’t try to ‘fix’ the person or ‘solve’ their problems – I am not the expert of anyone but myself
  • Work to support the peer’s highest good and personal growth
  • Ensure their emotional and physical safety in addition to protecting myself
  • Am open to ongoing learning, constructive feedback and am willing to share my challenges honestly and seek support with other peer supporters
  • Can recognize and admit personal biases that could impact the quality of the relationship with the person I am supporting
  • Treat the person with dignity, patience and respect
  • Accept imperfections of others and honour my own
  • Ensure that confidentiality is always protected within legal limits unless they are a threat to themselves or another person
  • Don’t gossip or talk about personal details with others
  • Am committed to making sure that all interactions with the person are appropriate, empowering and encourage the person’s safety and healing. (i.e. not engaging in sexual, emotional or financial exploitation)

Further Reading & Resources