Choosing program type

When deciding which setting and method to use to implement your peer based program you will need to prioritise and specify the areas of intervention most appropriate for your target population.

Peer-based program types may include (but are not limited to):

Drop-in centres

Sometimes young people may not need ongoing peer support but would like to talk with a peer once in a while. Young people may visit a drop-in centre to speak to someone because they are in distress, need some problem solving, want support around symptom management, are seeking social interaction, or are looking for a referral to another agency. Drop-in spaces however, can also provide a setting for more structured programs.

For an example of a drop-in space peer-based program, you can get more information here.


Retreats or camps provide an opportunity to implement several activities within a condensed period of time. A retreat or camp occurs outside other formal settings such as school which may create a more open and engaging atmosphere. Prevention and early intervention utilising the retreat approach enhances the problem-solving, decision-making and efficacy skills of young people so that they are better able to constructively manage their own issues.

For an example of a program using camps and retreats, you can get more information here

Planned group sessions

Groups may provide a structured series of workshops or sessions over a pre determined period of time. The content will be tailored to meet the needs of the target group. A group context can enhance peer support by providing a supportive, safe environment to practice new behaviours and skills and to receive feedback.

The delivery of such group sessions may differ in terms of formality, structure and flexibility. They may be didactic, or interactive and practical. Content may be set early, during planning, or may be driven by the needs and interests of the group participants during individual sessions.1

For an example of a peer-based group sessions program you can get more information here

One-to-one sessions

Through one-to-one sessions, young people can access emotional and practical support and be referred to other support services both within your organisation and externally.  Sessions are designed to provide an opportunity to share experiences and information, to enable informed choice and promote self-help.

For an example of a program that uses a one-to-one session, you can get more information here.

Online support

Online services are increasing in popularity for a number of reasons including their ability to access a wide cross section of the target group in a safe, confidential and potentially anonymous way. It is ideal for discussing sensitive or embarrassing issues and appeal to young people’s interest in the Internet. Online support services can also be useful for those young people who are uncomfortable in more traditional social spaces; for rural/remote young people who cannot access limited session times easily; and those who rely on others for transport to and from services.

For an example of an online program, you can get more information here.

Opportunistic interactions (outreach)

Opportunistic interactions, such as conversations with friends or acquaintances, are powerful forms of peer exchange and can be relatively informal or more formal forms of outreach. This peer support approach may have the ability to access hidden populations including at risk and marginalised young people. This program type can impact both group and individual behaviour through ‘social contagion’ where knowledge, attitudes and behaviours diffuse throughout social networks of young people. Peers pass on the information they learn through training and then model desired behaviours to their friends and other peers, who then pass this acquired information on to others.1

For an example of a program based on opportunistic outreach, you can get more information here.


  1. McDonald, D 2004, ‘Alcohol and Other Drug Peer Education in Schools: A review for the ACT Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Strategy Implementation and Evaluation Group’, Social Research and Evaluation, Canberra.