Organisation: Empowerment Center of the Initiative for Independent Living
“Peer-counseling” education is an important tool for the empowerment of persons with disabilities. Well-trained peer counselors support other affected persons in independently finding solutions for a self-determined life. Since the counselors are persons with disabilities themselves, it is easier for them to create an open and empathic atmosphere. Peer-counseling was first implemented in the 1960s by the Independent Living Movement in the USA. The Initiative for Independent Living in Upper Austria (Selbstbestimmt Leben-Initiative – SLIOÖ) has adopted the idea and offers peer-counseling at its Empowerment Center In . In 2008, Wolfgang Glaser developed a special training concept to enable peer counselors both to be sufficiently skilled and to offer professional mentoring. The education for peer counselors includes 240 units of theory and 80 units of practice in a social organisation. Moreover, the participants in the training have to pass 10 units of self-experience and 10 units of supervision. Because of the comprehensive nature of the training concept, in 2009 peer-counseling was legally recognised as a profession under the Upper Austrian law for social professions. Since then, peer-training training for persons with experience in psychiatry and peertraining training for persons with physical disabilities have been established quite successfully in the Empowerment Center. Peer-counseling training for persons with mental disabilities was started in June 2011. The organisation “FAB Organos” undertakes this special training. Some of the most skilled trainers are disabled persons themselves, because their competence as directly affected persons is given top priority. In the area of persons with psychiatric experience, Mrs Tiefenbacher has developed the concept of “pedagogical impulse” and monitoring for mentally ill persons ñ focusing especially on personality and personality strengthening factors.