by Beth Ayers, Family Peer Support Lead
December 4, 2021
“I have been where you are.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“It’s okay to ask questions.”
“You have rights.”
“You are an important part of the process.”
“You are doing the best you can.”
“Here is what helped me.”
“You are not alone.”
“There is hope.”
As a parent raising a child with behavioral health challenges, these words are lifesaving; especially when they come from a parent who has also raised a child with behavioral health challenges. Or in recovery terms, has lived experience. We who have walked in their shoes bring to a struggling parent empathy, practical knowledge, judgement-free listening, empowerment, support, and hope. This unique role is called Family Peer Support.
A Family Peer Supporter not only has lived experience, they have been trained to effectively support and empower other parents or caregivers raising a child with behavioral health challenges. A Family Peer Supporter walks alongside the parent to offer experience, strength, hope, resources, and tools to help the parent achieve their recovery goals for their family. A Family Peer Supporter is the bridge between the professional and medical behavioral health world and the parent and helps the parent advocate for themselves and their child. A Family Peer Supporter helps the parent navigate the complex behavioral health system and engage in family centered planning.
A Family Peer Supporter’s role is unique and invaluable to the treatment team and to the well-being and success of the family. A Family Peer Supporter offers a voice that is needed and missing in the behavioral health system and in the lives of parents experiencing the complexities and stigma of raising a child with behavioral health challenges. When visiting hours are over and doctors go home, Family Peer Supporters are there to light the way to recovery, resiliency, and healing.