Lois Dutton

Peer counselling opens doors to seniors helping seniors

Volunteer counsellors provide compassionate listening and encouragement

As a realtor for more than 30 years, Lois Dutton learned to listen, counsel and educate both her clients and business associates.

So it’s not surprising that when Dutton sold her business she decided to use her skill set to help others.

Dutton is a peer outreach counsellor – someone who advises others her age – with Senior Peer Counsellors, a program through Victoria-based Seniors Serving Seniors, a referral agency.

Volunteer counsellors provide compassionate listening and encouragement to help people get more in touch with their own feelings, gain a clearer understanding of their situations and difficulties, and make the decisions necessary to solve their own problems.

“We try and lead people to see if there is a way out of whatever situation they’re in,” Dutton said of the seniors she counsels.

The peer counselling program began 26 years ago and sees an average of 50 clients a year.

All counsellors take an intensive four-month training program. Counsellors range in age from 50 to 80.

Each counsellor handles about one to two clients. They meet once a week for about a one-hour session, usually at the client’s home.

There is a broad range of issues clients will bring to a counselling session from grieving to financial.

Oftentimes all a client needs are three or four sessions. Others need a longer commitment.

“Sometimes the counselling is like peeling an onion,” Dutton said. “There are layers and layers and we need to look at many issues.”

Dutton has been a volunteer counsellor with Senior Peer Counsellors for two years, after stints in similar roles in other organizations. Along with her counselling duties she also interviews potential clients with a suitable counsellor.

“It’s not easy [being a counsellor], but it’s very rewarding,” Dutton said.

“I think seeing the progress that clients can make is its own reward – seeing them being much more comfortable than they originally were than when we first met them.”

 

Are you a good listener?

Senior Peer Counsellors is seeking candidates for this fall’s training session.

The training sessions run from September to December.

Counselling is a rewarding experience, said veteran counsellor Lois Dutton.

To find out more, please call Seniors Serving Seniors at 250-382-4331 or go online to seniorsservingseniors.bc.ca.

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