Natural Helpers is a peer-helping program used across the United States and in several other countries. It primarily serves middle school/junior high school and high school students who want to strengthen their communication and helping skills and to provide support to others and service to their schools and communities.
The Natural Helpers program is based on a simple premise: Within every school, an informal "helping network" exists. Students with problems naturally seek out other students—and occasionally teachers or other school staff—whom they trust. They seek them out for advice, for assistance, or just for a sympathetic ear. The Natural Helpers program uses this existing helping network; it provides training to students and adults who are already perceived as "natural helpers". It gives them the skills they need to provide help more effectively to young people who seek them out.
Natural Helpers are a cross-section of students and school adults identified through an anonymous school-wide survey. After representatives of all the subgroups in the school community are selected, they are invited to participate in the Natural Helpers program. They take part in a Retreat Training in a camp-like setting; there they learn how to improve their helping skills, how to contact professional helping resources when problems exceed their limits, and how to take better care of themselves. It is constantly emphasized at the training that Natural Helpers are not professionally trained therapists or counselors.
After this Retreat Training, Natural Helpers attend Ongoing Training—either in a semester class or in a less structured format—which enhances basic skills and information covered in the Retreat Training, and which explores topics of concern to students, like stress, suicide, eating disorders, and relationships with friends and with family.
Natural Helpers report significant benefits from being involved in the program, whether their involvement is helping one to one, assisting with program coordination, volunteering for community projects, or fulfilling some other role. Natural Helpers find that the skills they learn and practice in working with others are beneficial with friends, teachers, family, and co-workers. They make new friends in the program and break down some of the barriers that exist in any community. Natural Helpers also experience the special feeling that comes from helping someone else and knowing that they have made a difference.
Goals of the Natural Helpers Program
The Natural Helpers program is designed to meet three basic goals:
Roles of Natural Helpers
Students play a variety of roles as Natural Helpers. Among them:
What Distinguishes Natural Helpers from other Peer-Helping Programs?
The Natural Helpers program can be tailored to meet the needs and budget of each school, as well as the strengths and interests of its Natural Helpers. Regardless of the individual character of the program, however, it maintains some characteristics that distinguish it from many other peer-helping programs:
For more information about Natural Helpers please call or email Mrs. Burden at 933-3523.