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Example 1: Counseling training program

Lisa Rasor is the former volunteer training coordinator at Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence, Kansas. Headquarters is a nonprofit, 24-hour crisis counseling and community information telephone and walk-in center. All counselors at the center are volunteers, and the center does three 100-hour trainings per year.

My name is Lisa Rasor. I'm the outgoing training director at Headquarters Counseling Center. I've been a training director for two years, and before that I was a volunteer. I have been a volunteer counselor and volunteer trainer since 1988. So, for the past ten years, I've been involved with Headquarters Training.

All of our volunteers first go through a screening process where they attend an informational meeting to learn more about the agency and the types of services we provide. Then, if they're still interested in volunteering, they sign up for a volunteer interview. This is like a job interview but more informal. The prospective volunteer will also fill out an application that is pretty much unlike any other. Prospective volunteers [write] about their experiences and values, so it's a way for us to get to know them better, and to see what kinds of experiences they have had.

The interviewers, who are usually experienced volunteers, will review the applications. There will be a 30--60 minute interview of the prospective volunteer, and then all of the interviewers get together and select applicants who will be in the next training group. Usually we don't have to turn away a lot of people. A lot of times, after the informational meeting and reading over the application, the prospective volunteer will say, "This is way too much time," or, "This is not for me," and so they'll screen themselves out. What we're looking for is someone who is interested in learning and who is able to learn basic counseling and communication skills.

[We are looking for volunteers] who are at a stable time in their lives. If they're overwhelmed with school, work, or family obligations, or they just moved here and they're still settling in, or if they've recently been very, very depressed or suicidal themselves, maybe it's not a good time right then for them to be a volunteer [at Headquarters]. We're not saying that [they could never volunteer], but right now things are overwhelming or too recent to really get involved in an intensive training program. We don't want training to overwhelm someone.

After the group is selected, all of the group members are invited to become volunteers. We'll start with a group of between fifteen and twenty-five people. There are fifteen five-hour training sessions, and each session builds on the previous one. Plus, they do readings from the handbook, and weekly 3.5 hour observation shifts.

The first session is devoted mainly to getting to know each other, a more detailed explanation of the training program, and what they'll need to do. [We work on] getting comfortable and making a group out of fifteen strangers. We do that with various group-building exercises. Then everybody signs an agreement to keep the information learned in training and from the center confidential.

I think it's important that every single training session has no wasted time. We don't want people sitting around feeling like their time is being wasted. I plan every session out basically to the minute. At 4:00 we begin, we start "check in" which we do every week. Basically it's how people are doing, how are they feeling, what 's been going on in their lives. We do "check in" from 4:00 to 4:30. 4:30 to 5:00 is when we talk about what happened on their observation shifts the previous week. Then, there's a ten-minute break to sign up for the next observation shift from 5:00 to 5:10, and it continues like that. It really is planned out. It is an intensive learning experience, and we're immersing people in it each session.

Each session is set up to meet certain goals, and, for the most part, I think we succeed. The overall goal [is] having the trainees feel comfortable and competent with the skills and the information to work counseling shifts at Headquarters. We are looking for a certain competency of skills, and we will work extra with somebody to achieve that level. We want people who use our services to [find that] basically whoever answers the phone is going to be competent, caring, and helpful.

I would say [the best part of training] is seeing the changes that people go through when they participate in the program. Not radical personality changes, just the opening up of people's worlds, and seeing the connections people make with each other. I've seen lifelong friendships develop in training. The one thing we all have in common from the beginning is that we're in training to because we want to help in some way. Starting from that commonality, we're creating community among these people.

Example 2: Sample lesson plan

A blank version of this form can be found in Tools.

STD/AIDS Peer Educator Training Program

Lesson 3: Familiarity with condoms

Learning Objectives

At the end of this lesson, trainees will:

  • Know how to correctly use a condom
  • Be comfortable using and discussing condoms


The trainer will demonstrate the correct manner in which to use a condom. (S)he should encourage questions from the audience.

  • 10-15 minutes
  • Will need condoms and model penis or banana

Condom race

Trainees are broken into two teams. Team members break into pairs; one person of the team must properly put a condom on the model and take it off, while the other explains what (s)he is doing. If the pair makes a mistake, they must do it again. The team that finishes first wins. This exercise also serves as an evaluation of whether or not trainees learned the important parts of condom usage.

  • 20-25 minutes, depending on number of participants
  • Will need enough condoms for each pairs, plus a few extras
  • Will need 2 model penises/bananas; possibly a prize for winning team (condoms, red ribbon pins)


The trainer should facilitate a discussion of what just took place. People's feelings (e.g., embarrassment, nervousness) when demonstrating the condom should discussed, and the trainer should underline the fact that the condom is simply a method of preventative medicine, and should be no more embarrassing to purchase or discuss than any other kind of medicine.

  • 30-45 minutes
  • Chairs should be placed in a circle, so all participants may look at each other


The trainer should ask that before the next session, all the trainees should demonstrate condom usage to a friend or family member to become more comfortable.

  • Will need condoms for all trainees