Bookmark and Share

 

Forever LSU

The Campaign for
Louisiana State University


More than 100 volunteers representing areas affected by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico took part in a two-day peer listening workshop at LSU's Ione E. Burden Conference Center July 28 and 29. Peer listening is a type of support that occurs when people provide knowledge and experience, as well as emotional, social or practical help to each other. Properly trained peer listeners can provide a number of services to the community such as serving as an available ear to assist in problem solving or providing referrals to professionals.

Workshop Trains Volunteers To Be Peer Listeners For Those Affected By Gulf Oil Spill

Many people affected by technological disasters are reluctant to use traditional mental health services. Often those affected might not ever be aware that they could use such services.

Research has shown that traditional mental health services may not be effective in dealing with the long-term results of disasters. Informal social support networks, including trained peer listeners, are one way to address these difficulties.

The LSU School of Social Work, Louisiana Sea Grant, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, LSU AgCenter and others hosted a special two-day peer listener training workshop July 28 and 29 at the Ione E. Burden Conference Center in Baton Rouge that focused on training people with basic knowledge to provide help to individuals who may have been impacted by the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Peer listening is a type of support that occurs when people provide knowledge and experience, as well as emotional, social or practical help to each other. Properly trained peer listeners can provide a number of services to the community such as serving as an available ear to assist in problem solving or providing referrals to professionals.


The workshop serves as a way to "train the trainers" by instructing people on how to be peer listeners so they can teach others in their local communities or organizations. Peer listeners drawn from local communities are more often trusted than outsiders, because they better understand the community and its relationship to the disaster, Myer said.

The training is modeled after activities that took place in the Alaska fishing communities after the Valdez Oil Spill and was led by J. Steven Picou, an LSU alumnus and current sociology professor in the University of South Alabama’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work.

Picou’s research has shown that informal social support networks such as trained peer listeners can often help individuals who may be dealing with long-term effects of technological disaster. He recently conducted a similar workshop at the University of South Alabama in Mobile.

Picou received his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1967, where he graduated with honors. He received his master’s degree in sociology from LSU in 1969 and his doctorate from LSU in 1971. His areas of research include environmental sociology, disasters, applied sociology, social impact assessment, organizational design, research methodology and community studies.

Renee’ Boutte Myer, director of external relations for the LSU School of Social Work’s Office of Social Service Research & Development, said that participants were selected to take part in the program based on specific criteria, with more than 100 volunteers signing up for the workshop. Many came from the coastal parishes or parishes affected by the spill. They include pastors, school system officials, church charity representatives, extension services workers and representatives from volunteer aid groups.

Peer listeners drawn from local communities are more often trusted than outsiders, because they better understand the community and its relationship to the disaster, Myer said.

In essence, the workshop is a way to “train the trainers,” Myer said, instructing people on how to be peer listeners so they can teach others in their local communities or organizations.            

For more information on J. Steven Picou, visit www.stevenpicou.com.

To learn more about the peer listening program or the LSU School of Social Work’s Office of Social Service Research & Development, contact Myer at 225-578-5602, or e-mail rboutte@lsu.edu.  

Aaron Looney | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations
July 2010