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How to Train Your Peer Support Circle Members

"Circles are not only practical and effective but are easily teachable and transferabe to other settings and individuals. Almost anyone can become a peer coach and teach this practice to others." – Heather Pape, Certified Coach

This training is step 3 of 3 to start a Circle. Step 1 is planning and registering and step 2 is recruiting members.


  1. This meeting needs 2.5 hours.

  2. Be sure each Circle member brings their Quick Reference and Personal Journal tools, as well as their signed Member Agreement.

Share Introductions (20 Minutes)

  1. If the members do not already know each other well, this would be a good time for them to. Encourage the members to share what brought them to the Circle as well as something fun or personal about themselves. Be sure to introduce yourself as well.

  2. Afterwards, collect their signed Agreements to make 4-5 copies of each and then distribute all copies to each member.
small group exchange

Give an Overview of the Circle Process (30 Minutes)

  1. Mention they will learn more about the Circle process by continuing to practice it. In this overview, mention the following points.

  2. Each member gets equal time in each meeting to address a current priority. whether it is a problem or an exciting goal. A priority does not have to have a very carefully and rationally described background, or have a rational plan – it’s what is important right now.

  3. Each person’s time is called a “time slot”, usually 20 minutes long for support groups. The member who has that time is the “presenter.” Mention that members learn not only during their time slots, but also when helping others in the meeting.

  4. Members support each other by sharing questions, advice, materials and accountabilities to address each member’s priority.
    - Mention that successful support is not solving each member's problem. It's continuing to attend to each member in a caring, curious and concise way.
    - Point out the guidelines in the Circles Quick Reference about “Useful Questions to Offer Support." Direct them to the “Sample Questions” underneath those guidelines.
    - Point out a couple of the optional questions in each of the subsections numbered 1 through 4, as a way to select questions based on the timing of supporting a member, e.g., during the member's 15 or 20 minutes. Mention their curiosity and concern for their members may lead to other questions. As long as questions are curious, caring and concise, they are fine.

  5. Each member selects realistic actions to address their priority before the next meeting. Mention members learn a great deal from reflecting on their actions during and between meetings, and also from the help they get in each meeting. Taking actions and reflecting on those actions have been proven to provide ongoing impact and sense of empowerment for individuals.

"Almost anyone can become a peer coach and teach this practice to others." – Heather Pape, Certified Coach

hands together at table

Demonstrate an Actual Circle Meeting (90 Minutes)

The facilitator could use the Facilitator Talking Points to lead members step-by-step through this demonstration. Each member should refer to each respective step in their Circles Quick Reference.

  1. Go through each item in the Circle Session Agenda, one at a time, not skipping any in the Opening, Time Slots and Closing. You can reference the remaining pages in this document to do that.

  2. As you go through each numbered or bulleted item in the Agenda, hold up your Quick Reference and point your finger to that item.

  3. Because of limited time, you might support each of at most two members during this demonstration.

Schedule Your Upcoming Circle Meetings (10 Minutes)

  1. Schedule as many of the remaining five Circle meetings as you can. Schedule 90 minutes for a four-member Circle, and two hours for a five-member Circle. The free Doodle tool is a very useful scheduler.

After having trained your members, you will have completed the three steps to start your Circle. Then you will be ready for your ongoing Peer Support Circle meetings. You can use the Facilitator Talking Points for each of those meetings.

(First photo courtesy of Second photo courtesy of fauxels on