Peer Counseling Program

What is the Peer Counselor Program?
The Peer Counselor program offers confidential counseling services to seniors who are facing the challenges of aging. Trained and supervised volunteer counselors offer emotional support, guidance and empathy to people from the age of 50 years and up who may be facing the stresses of illness, loss of spouse or friends, isolation from family and friends and other life transitions. Peer counseling takes place in a variety of places: in the client’s home, in group settings, as well as in our professional counseling office. Peer counseling services are charged on a sliding scale basis for individual counseling. 
Why Does Peer Counseling Work?
Peer Counseling works because the client is paired with a counselor who is old enough to have lived through and survived some of the same life events. Often, talking to someone who is a peer with similar experiences, values, wisdom and common sense can help individuals work through feelings or make decisions about difficult life issues. 
What Qualifications are Required to become a Peer Counselor?
We select our counselors based on their relationship and listening skills and their cognitive abilities. Prior professional academic degrees are not required. 
How are Volunteers Selected for Training?
Potential volunteers complete a CSA Peer Counselor application (click here for our on-line application) and participate in a screening interview. Our next training will be held in September 2019. 2018. Learn more by going to the Peer Training tab at the top of our home page.
What is the Commitment?
The training program towards certification requires attendance at our intensive 24 hour training program. The program consists of a group experience that combines didactic learning and experiential work in counseling and coaching skills. The training is conducted by CSA’s licensed professionals and includes guest presenters. Volunteers will be asked to contribute towards their training costs. Scholarships are sometimes available to those for whom this would be a burden.

Upon successful completion of the course and receiving certification, the time commitment as a Peer Counselor involves approximately 5-10 hours a week which includes interactions with clients, families, a mandatory weekly supervision session and occasional participation in other related activities of CSA. Additionally, peer counselors are encouraged to participate in community events, activities, and educational programs as they relate to CSA and issues related to aging.
What is the Typical Profile of a Peer Counselor?
The typical Peer Counselor is a caring, compassionate person with good listening skills combined with a desire to help others and a willingness to work with the senior population and their families.  
What are the Benefits of Becoming a Peer Counselor?
  • Peer Counselors experience the satisfaction of helping others.
  • Peer Counselors gain great satisfaction from making a meaningful contribution that addresses an urgent community need.
  • Peer Counselors develop a strong sense of camaraderie and support with each other.
  • Peer Counselors experience the sense of deep appreciation from clients.
  • Peer Counselors can acquire significant self-knowledge and achieve substantial emotional growth which can be applied in their own personal relationships and thereby enhance the quality of their lives. 
What Peer Counselors Do for Seniors
 Senior Peer Counselors are available to work with older adults and their families…
  • In the privacy of their own homes
  • In our office 
  • In our community-based counseling groups and facilitated support groups
CSA can help older adults deal more successfully with…
  • Physical changes / Isolation / Loss
  • Depression / Anxiety / Stress
  • Life Transitions
  • Helping seniors help themselves
CSA has helped many seniors in the Santa Barbara area live better quality lives. Here are just a few of our recent “success stories.” “Helen” in her late 90’s was unhappy with the quality of medical care she was receiving but was afraid to speak up. She was helped by her peer counselor to enroll in Medi-Cal. She received a needed hearing aid as well as additional care from a dermatologist. Her outlook improved dramatically. Helen celebrated her 100th birthday with her “Over 90’s” support group.

A daughter of a client recently wrote to her mother’s peer counselor: “Thank you seems like too small a phrase for all the help you were to my mother and me during her last years. We could never have made it without your help. I was still working and was not able to be with her during the day. Mama always looked forward to talking with you. Your help in getting her the right medication advice was invaluable to us. ”

“Rita” had lived in an abusive marital relationship for many years. Her husband became ill and died. Rita felt guilty over the relief she felt upon his death and also felt guilty for now doing things her husband had forbidden. Through the help of her peer counselor, Rita was able to work through her guilty feelings and realize she was a worthy person. She has now been able to establish new and rewarding relationships.

“Steve” at age 90 felt depressed and helpless. His son was developmentally challenged, needed care and he discovered his daughter was addicted to drugs. Through assistance from a peer counselor he was able to better face his situation, take steps to deal with the challenging problems he had and move past his depression.

All three are able to live independent lives.

Individual peer counseling services are charged on a sliding scale based on the family income.

For more information on CSA services, or to find out how you can help,
please contact us at (805) 898-8080 or email