The importance of legal privilege in peer counselling

It has been proven that college students who encountered abuse are more comfortable in dealing with their experience with their peers rather than with professionals. In this manner, it is more acceptable to these students to deal with their experience with an informal conversation with their peers (Balk 179). According to the report written by Caroline Kitchener, she cited that it has been reported that most of the universities in the United States are already offering a “ peer-to-peer sexual assault counseling program.” This program is beneficial for students, as well as for the institution. However, most of these undergraduate peer counselors receive at most 24 hours of training. This is supported by the study of Salovey and D’Andrea (264) that shows most of the peer counselors receive inadequate training materials and programs prior to being peer counselors. The interview of the peer counselors suggested that there was inappropriate and synchronized training model for the peer counselors. The problem with this inadequate training is that peer counselors do not have the legal privilege to make their conversations with the involved individuals confidential. Therefore, university peer counselors must undergo training that is approved by the state in order for them to practice legal privilege in terms of confidentiality. Legal privilege is given to them in order to protect the involved individuals when forced to disclose their conversations (Anderson). The lack of assurance that the conversation between the peer counselor and the involved individual oftentimes restricts the involved individual in being honest with the counselor. For both men and women, they will be hesitant in sharing their vulnerable and fragile moments and feelings towards the peer counselor. The involved individuals will eventually be trapped in their own fear, guilt, and shame without having someone who will understand their situation (Kitchener). Aside from confidentiality, the peer counselor must also be knowledgeable of the involved individual’s acculturation and ethnic identity. In this manner, he or she will be able to understand where the involved individual is coming from and will also be able to understand his or her understanding of the situation. It is important to know these details in order for him or her to incorporate specific terms and manner of approach to the involved person (Topping and Ehly 230-231).
It can be inferred that the importance of legal privilege must be addressed by the universities in the aspect of peer counseling. For this reason, the lack of confidentiality often time deters the victims to seek the help of peer counselors. It is important to give state-regulated training for peer counselors in order for them to practice legal privilege in counseling sessions. Along with this, they must also acquire a proper understanding of the culture of the person they are counseling to avoid stereotyping.