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OPDI Peer Support Core Essentials Program

Most of our members have a 20+-year track record of providing excellent peer support, and in some cases peer training. Still, as the evidence grew showing peer support to be extremely effective in terms of outcomes and return on investment, it became clear that expanding interest and demand would require more consistency in peer training. Members asked for the creation of a training program in 2005, and we were successful in securing two-year funds from Ontario Trillium Foundation in 2008.

We engaged a consultant group who conducted an extensive consultative process to identify what was needed, drafted a training program complete with train the trainer, and piloted/adjusted the curriculum at two intervals. An independent contractor evaluated the training with participants and trainers, and this informed further refinements to the program.

Ten individuals completed trainer training, and it was they who delivered training, with support and supervision, to most of the others. In March of 2012 we began training another seven trainers, and we look forward to providing them the opportunity to complete their trainer training by co-facilitating classes alongside our original ten.

As of Summer 2017, we have eight trainers at our disposal, and have done further trainer skills development work with them, first  by requiring them to pass the Peer Support Canada examination and supporting them to complete the PSC certificate, and through regular meetings of a trainer Community of Practice.  The training program is constantly updated and improved based on trainers comparing their experiences, staff monitoring participant internship/practicums, and on evaluation surveys that every participant has the opportunity to complete.

Since its inception, this training has been provided to more than 600 participants, including some who have traveled from out of province. OPDI training has been identified as a requirement for peer supporters in two LHIN regions, as well as at some organizations in other LHINs.

training participant workbook cover

About the Program

OPDI Peer Support Core Essentials™ Program is just that – a solid foundational training for peer supporters.

This training program has been developed in consultation with the subject experts: Consumer/Survivor Initiatives and Peer Support Organizations across Ontario. Its focus is on strengthening and nurturing what is at the core of peer support: the peer supporter.


OPDI Peer Support Core Essentials™ Program involves five full days face-to-face in the classroom with two trainers. There are many individual exercises, group exercises and role plays in class time, and daily written reflections assigned as homework. Prior to classroom training, a required 1.5 hour “Expectations” webinar is delivered by OPDI staff. Program managers or supervisors contemplating sending individuals into training are also encouraged to attend this one, as well as potential participants. Then, some basic content and concepts are introduced in a second, 2 hour mandatory webinar called “Beginnings”, which is strictly for participants only.  Homework (information gathering) is assigned to be brought for use in class. It should be noted that taking this training does not guarantee everyone an automatic “pass”. Participants are evaluated by the trainers, and the outcomes can range from “Incomplete” to “Level 1”, “Level 1R” and eventually earning “OPDI Certified Peer Supporter”.

Level 1 means the person attended and participated fully in the training, and is deemed at this point appropriate to deliver an informal friendship style of peer support within supervised settings that would correspond with the first three categories in the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Continuum of Peer Support, up to and including a C/SI or PSO. Level 1R means that the trainers are of the opinion the participant may be ready to work in a more formalized setting, and are Recommending that they proceed to an internship or practicum in which they deliver 50 hours of person to person support which is monitored and evaluated. It is not mandatory to do the practicum, but it is necessary for those who wish to earn the OPDI Certified Peer Supporter certificate.

For upcoming trainings please visit our events page.

Note: This training does not attempt to be all things to all people. Some peer support roles require specialized skills that are not required in most settings. Other topics that might be important in many settings, require more intensive training beyond basics. For these reasons, this training focuses on the core skills, introducing such topics and pointing toward other learning resources. Diagnostic and pharmaceutical information is readily available, constantly changing, and of limited relevance to peer support relationships, therefore in response to member wishes are not included in this training. OPDI will seek funding and partnership opportunities to develop additional modules and continuing education pieces for specific skills or settings.


Program Overview

Introductory Webinar


  • The policy backdrop of peer support in Ontario
  • The operative word is Peer
  • Peer support in consumer-run groups Ontario Peer Development Initiative Build your reference library Homework Assignment: Your Local C/SI or PSO
  • OPDI Peer Support Training Project
  • OPDI Peer Support Training Program

Participant Workbook

  • Participant Expectations
  • Confidentiality Agreement
  • Participant Profile

Participant Reflection

  • Comfort Agreement
  • Training Program Content Outline
Peer Support
Module #1

Defining Peer Support

  • Various definitions, OPDI definition
  • Describing peer support

Sharing experiences of peer support

  • Benefits of receiving
  • Benefits of offering
  • Peer’s perspectives on benefits of offering/receiving

Establishing peer support

  • Recognizing PS
  • Our vision
  • Our intention

Journal reflection

Role of the Peer Supporter
Module #2

Peer Supporter Core Competencies

  • Distinguishing Attributes, Knowledge and Skills
  • Core Competencies of the Peer Supporter

Module Journal Reflection

Exemplifying Peer Support
Module #3

Exemplifying Peer Support

  • Introduction
  • Principles

Cornerstones of Peer Support

  • Self Awareness
  • Self Responsibility
  • Self Care

Module Journal Reflection

Recovery Inspired Peer Support
Module #4

Introduction to Recovery
Recovery Concept

  • Meaning of Recovery Exercise
  • Vision
  • Definition
  • Describing Recovery
  • Evidence

Supporting Recovery

  • Elements
  • Personal Medicine
  • Wellness Recovery Actions Plans
  • Pathways to Recovery
  • Recovery Workbook
  • Other Resources

Journal Reflection

Becoming Informed Peer Supporters
Module #5

Becoming Informed Overview

  • Becoming Informed vs Being an Expert
  • Becoming Informed Peer Supporters
  • Knowledge Topics and Strategies
  • Core Knowledge Areas

Becoming Trauma Informed

  • Exercises

Becoming Suicide Prevention Informed

  • Exercises

Becoming Substance Use Informed

  • Exercises

Journal Reflection

Community Minded Peer Support
Module #6

Meaning of Community

  • Community Connections

Cultural Competency

Cultural Diversity

  • Diversity within Peer Communities
  • Enhancing Cultural Competency
  • Community Services and Resource
  • Gaps in Services, Programs and Organizations
  • Becoming more Informed about Communities

Module Journal Reflection

Core Connecting Skills
Module #7

Core Connecting Skills – Listening

  • Overview Listening
  • The Experience of Being Heard
  • Skilled Listening
  • Preparing to Listen
    • Minimizing Distractions
    • Attending
    • Observing
  • Hearing the Words
  • Hearing the Feeling
  • Hearing the Message
    • Skills Practice

Feedback Loop
Core Connecting Skills – Sharing

  • Skilled Sharing
    • Best Ways to Share
    • Steps
    • Identifying Opportunities
  • Determining Intention
  • Self Disclosing
    • Skills Practice

Module Journal Reflection

Peer/Peer Supporter Relationship
Module #8

Peer/Peer Supporter Relationship Overview

  • Relationships with Helpers

Beginning the Relationship

  • Creating a Path for Peer Support
  • Making the Connection
  • Guiding the Initial Meeting
    • Core Activity Skills Practice

Building the Relationship

  • Finding a Focus
  • Encouraging Steps Forward
    • Supporting Peer Action
    • Accompanying the Peer
    • Advocating with the Peer

Overcoming Challenges

  • Sharing Power
  • Setting Limits
  • Overcoming Challenges
  • Resolving Conflict

Concluding the Relationship

  • Identifying Point of Closure
  • Supporting Transitions
  • Reflecting on Experiences
    • Exercise

Journal Reflection

Planning Your Internship
Final Webinar

Proceeding to an internship is optional, but it is required to earn the certificate. An internship is a self-negotiated arrangement to complete 50 hours giving peer support under supervision of a CSI or other mental health program. The supporter submits an internship plan to OPDI and, upon approval, sends written reflections after each ten hours is logged. Their supervisor and five participants also evaluate them. The internship webinar is offered periodically by OPDI staff to explain the process and provide the necessary forms. This allows flexibility so the learner has the information fresh when they are ready to start an internship.

Individuals who have completed training receive a signed 1 or 1R document of Recognition, and after successfully completing their internship, an “OPDI Certified Peer Supporter” certificate. OPDI keeps a database of participants and their achieved levels, so job seekers can show their signed recognition/certificate as proof of their training, or they can invite the prospective employer to call us for confirmation they have been trained.