at the congress of the professional organisation for Peer Counselors – BVP e.V. on 3.-4. June 1999 in Berlin

The disability of a human being results from the separating, excluding, and disparaging social reaction (discrimination) upon his or her lasting physical, mental and / or emotional limitation.

Disability determines personality. Personality is determined by disability in a mutual process of self- and external definition.
From our own experience as people with disabilities we know that emancipation and self-determination are the basis for a life which is more fulfilled.

We want to share this knowledge with other people. In this context emancipation means:
– the positive self-esteem / self-evaluation including one’s own wishes and needs

– the acknowledgement and promotion of one’s own abilities.
– the realistic perception of one’s own limitations and the individual and social possibilities of compensation.

– personal liberation and the refusal of roles, which in a historical process were attributed to disabled people, such as modesty, gratitude and obedience.
– to resist against segregation, discrimination and being determined by others.

Living self- determined means to us:
– An equal participation in all of the fundamental and basic areas of life. That means especially the right to choose nutrition, clothing, housing, health care, aids, services for personal assistance and support, mobility, communication, information, education, work, political participation, opportunity of access to all social areas as well as the right of sexuality and parenthood.

– a process of becoming self-aware and to develop a competence in personal and political decision making.
– individual and collective control of this process

– interest in co-operation on a common basis which people of different disabilities.

The demanded equation of disabled people and other disadvantaged groups requires an open and tolerant model of society. Such a model respects the variety of human life and prevents discrimination. Therefore the activities of „BVP are marked by political representation of disabled people and by individual counseling following the aims of the international Independent Living Movement. We regard individual counseling and political representation as intertwined; they are interdependent promoting each other.
The BVP adopts the international term for counseling people with disabilities by counselors who are disabled themselves:

Peer Counselors don’t necessarily need a professional qualification in order to share their experiences and knowledge on an equal partner like basis. But nevertheless there are indispensable qualities for peer counselors to possess:

– experiences concerning the struggle towards emancipation and self-determination – the experiences of discrimination and resistance against it, – the affirmation of personal physical, mental or emotional disabilities – self-respect – sensibility and honest interest in the other peer.


1. Principles of work for members of the BVP
The consultation of the peer counselors in the BVP


Build at 30.06.2001

takes as guide the competence and the resources of the person seeking advice,
is comprehensive
respects the advice-seeking peer as expert in his or her own field
is based on a partnership,
aims at making stronger and empowering the advice seeking person
is partial
and independent.
1.1 Personal resources as guide-line
Peer Counseling is based on the assumption that, given the opportunity, people are capable of solving most of the problems of everyday life on their own.
1.2 Comprehensiveness
Peer Counseling consists of advice in all significant areas of life such as educational and vocational Integration. Furthermore it embraces supply of supporting devices, mobility as well as problems of personal development.
1.3 Experts in pursuing their own interests
Peer counselors in the BVP do not aim at solving other people’s problems. They merely try to support the help-seeking peers in finding appropriate solutions on their own. Accordingly they share their experiences and their competence during counseling. Peer counselors of the BVP will neither advise someone about what should be done nor do they turn to find fault with someone’s actions. They don’t act as missionaries. Instead peer counselors of the BVP encourage advice-seeking persons in finding solutions independently. This is achieved by listening with empathy, by exploring the resources of the advice-seeking person, talking about their own experiences and by developing possible solutions.
1.4 Empowerment
Peer counselors of the BVP pursue in strengthening the advice-seeking peers‘ self-respect. They know that very often good solutions require a sense of demands being justified and power in achieving one’s rights. In this context they promote empowerment.
1.5 Partiality
Counseling always starts from the peer’s interests and accordingly is partial.
1.6 Independence
Following the rules of the BVP, peer counseling must be free of personal, social, institutional, economic and political interests. Otherwise the advice-seeking persons could be in danger of being manipulated by BVP-members.
2. Membership
Peer counselors of the BVP can point out their BVP-membership in order to promote their interests.
BVP offers further education for its members for improving their abilities and resources and for gaining knowledge about scientific aspects and results in counseling matters. BVP members accept the obligation to keep pace with the development of the Independent-Living-Movement and with Peer Counseling of people with disabilities.

Peer counselors of the BVP reflect their counseling by supervision or by exchanging their experiences with their colleagues. They accept to offer coaching if there is a demand by the BVP and if they have confidence in themselves.
Members commit themselves to get along with each other in a fair manner. A critical view of other peer counselors in the BVP should be introduced to the person directly and in privacy.

3. Status towards the advice-seeking persons
The BVP- peer counselors‘ relationship to the advice-seeking persons is affected deeply by the necessity of a communication in a trustful way, of openness reaching as far as possible and of methods being used transparently. Therefore peer counselors in the BVP can always reject or finish counseling if a trustful dialogue no longer exists.
Peer counselors of the BVP give each counseling task they receive a careful consideration. The more intimate the discussed topics, the more sensitive counselors give attention to whether topics or the personality of the advice-seeking person cause any personal problems to them. They know, sometimes changing the counselor can be advantageous and they help the advice-seeking persons if they want a change.

4. Records/listening
Peer counselors are allowed to record consultations on video or on audio only with consent given beforehand by the advice-seeking person. Accordingly consent is necessary when a third person is given the possibility to listen. The same refers to telephone calls.
Written records should be handled in strict confidence. Peer counselors are responsible for keeping them under lock and key.

5. Professional secrecy
Peer counselors in the BVP must observe secrecy with regard to all facts given to them confidentially during their professional activities. The same applies to facts which became well known during counseling (following § 203 STGB) unless law allows exceptions.
The peer counselors‘ professional secrecy includes members of the advice-seeking person’s family, staff members and superiors unless the advice-seeking persons agree to make known contents of counseling. Professional secrecy doesn’t apply to members of the BVP who are necessarily in charge of preparing or of accompanying the counseling, who also apply to professional secrecy.
It is allowed to use facts and contents of counseling which are object of secrecy anonymous.
6. Representation in public
Peer counselors who express their views in public acting as peer counselors in the BVP or adopting the title of peer counselor are committed to the principles of the Independent-Living-Movement to a high degree.
7. Offences
BVP-members who offend the principles as they are outlined above will be deprived of their membership, irrespective of the fact that they may be prosecuted.

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