The use of peer counselors was originally adopted by the independent living movement because it fit so well with the overall philosophy — an organization run by people with disabilities for people with disabilities. It was believed that people who have experienced attitudinal, physical, mental and communication barriers themselves are often the best service providers for others who are beginning to experience these same barriers. It has proven itself to be an extremely effective method for us at Independence Northwest.
The peer counselor has valuable first-hand knowledge of disability or other relevant issues, and is well trained in effective coping, communication and advocacy skills.
The counselor and individual meet as equals, both sharing life experiences in their quest to achieve independence and, in the process, a relationship develops based on mutual trust and respect. The peer counselor also serves as a role model for the individual by offering concrete evidence of possible achievements. Throughout their work together, they explore the needs and issues of the individual, define his or her goals, and then begin work to attain these goals.