Peer Coaching Hones Listening Skills
Getting by with a little help from your friends is getting easier thanks to the Georgia Tech Counseling Center.
This semester, the Counseling Center will continue its Peer Coaching Program that began in Spring 2016. It provides students facing academic, social, and personal concerns with a way to receive support from fellow students. Students wanting help from the program are matched with a Tech peer who has been extensively trained to navigate mental health conversations in a personal and private manner, and who is knowledgeable about campus resources at Georgia Tech.
“Becoming a peer coach not only allows you to help coach students through issues they are facing at Georgia Tech, but it gives you the skills to be a more effective listener and friend in everyday situations,” said Ben Nickel, a fifth-year industrial and systems engineering major and former peer coach who graduates this semester. “I was an active peer coach for two years and have since retired to focus on graduation. In addition, I wanted to give younger coaches the chance to coach more students and gain experience.”
Nickel said it has been great to see new coaches grow into the role and to also see the program expand.
“As a peer coach, sometimes you see the benefit of what you do right away, and make an immediate, visible impact on the students you coach. Other times, it may take months to see progress in those you coach,” Nickel said. “It really takes being dedicated to giving all the students you work with your full energy day in and day out. Either way, peer coaching has taught me how to be more patient and to work consistently with those I coach.”
All students currently enrolled at Georgia Tech — graduate and undergraduate —are eligible to participate in peer coaching. Students serving as peer coaches are trained to create a supportive and understanding environment in which students can identify and work through specific academic, social, and other personal goals. Services provided by peer coaches are considered consultation services, as opposed to counseling or therapy. Peer coaches are not trained counselors or therapists, and students meeting with a peer coach are not considered clients of the Counseling Center.
Common concerns peer coaching may help to address include:
- Adjustment to college/Tech culture
- Academic struggles (e.g. study skills, time management, motivation)
- Relationship concerns (e.g. roommates, friendships, dates/partner relationships, family)
- Grief and loss
- Stress and time management
This semester, the Counseling Center has added an online self-referral option. Interested students can complete a Peer Coaching Screening Form online at peercoaching.gatech.edu, linked from the Connect with a Coach page.
The program was developed as part of recommendations from a Mental Health Task Force convened by President G.P. “Bud” Peterson in 2013. The idea came from students involved in the task force, who suggested that some students may be reluctant to speak with professors or professional staff about their struggles, but would value and be more likely to talk to a peer.