What do you feel when you hear the word boundary? Does the word resonate with you, or do you feel resistance to it? Does the word “boundary” feel firm like borders between countries? Or do boundaries feel more fluid and flexible?

Simply defined, boundaries are a clear guideline of what is Ok and what is not Ok.

Your campus peer support work will require you to have good boundaries and to honour your personal needs and limitations. As a student you are balancing a lot of responsibilities and it’s important for your own well-being that you don’t overextend yourself. Honouring your energy level, capacity, and time constraints is important.

Maintaining professional boundaries, like respecting confidentiality, is also very important when you take on any official volunteer or paid role. Boundaries and ethics are there to protect the people you serve, and to protect you, too!

You may also find yourself in a position of supporting someone else to figure out their personal boundaries. Many post-secondary students find themselves in a time of significant transition and change; there may suddenly be countless new things vying for their attention, time and energy – assignments to complete, places to go, people to get to know, activities to try. . Learning about and establishing boundaries will serve someone both now and into the future. If we are supporting someone to understand and create boundaries, it’s important that we also know and respect our own boundaries.

This training is all about working with people, so we will focus primarily on interpersonal and relational boundaries. However, establishing boundaries goes beyond relational when we consider our personal boundaries around what we choose to do with our time, our thoughts, and our personal limits. This is a topic that many people struggle with. For your own personal growth, it deserves some extra thought and reflection. There are many books, papers, and articles published on the topic of boundaries. Check out the library, or talk to your supervisor and ask about recommended reading for your program. We have also referenced some good resources within this module.

Peer support is about mutuality. It is essential that boundaries are clear, defined, and shared with others in a kind and respectful way. In ongoing relationships, it’s important that both participants in the relationship have input in the creation of the relationship boundaries. You will find that the boundary work we will tackle in this module will also have application in your friendship, family, and work connections.

Boundaries can be tough to navigate. Especially in the campus setting where there is a high likelihood of running into and interacting with people in multiple contexts – classes, coffee shops, libraries, teams, social gatherings, residence, peer support work, etc.  In the clinical world, practitioners are never permitted to be friends with clients . Peer support is not clinical; it differs in so many ways! The ethics within peer support aren’t as firm as they are in a clinical setting. Getting clear about your own boundaries as you begin peer support work is valuable and important – especially given the social nature of campus life. . You may have had interactions with someone you are assigned to do peer support work with. However, you should never provide peer support services to someone who is a friend, roommate, or relative.

Often, we find ourselves wishing there were clear answers for the difficult decisions we must make. However, life is messy, and relationships can be messy too. Often there isn’t one clear “this is the right thing to do” answer. This module is meant to equip you with some tools you can use when you find yourself in any grey areas that require clear boundaries.

We will cover the following topics in this module, as they are all important elements to navigating boundaries:

  • The Core Values of Peer Support
  • The BC Peer Support definition of recovery
  • The Peer Support Canada Code of Conduct (similar to ethics)
  • Defining boundaries
  • Reminders about worldview and differing perspectives and how they inform boundary creation

For Reflection

  • Do you have a hard time with creating boundaries? If yes, why do you think this is?
  • Do you have a hard time accepting other people’s boundaries? Why or why not?
  • Do you see the value in having clear boundaries? Why or why not?


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Post-Secondary Peer Support Training Curriculum Copyright © 2022 by Jenn Cusick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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