What is peer support?…this.
The Gift of Peer Support by Larry Fricks, Deputy Director Center for Integrated Health Solutions
A peer provider (e.g., certified peer specialist, peer support specialist, recovery coach) is a person who uses his or her lived experience of recovery from mental illness and/or addiction, plus skills learned in formal training, to deliver services in behavioral health settings to promote mind-body recovery and resiliency.
Peer providers are often hired because of their recovery experience, rather than their clinical education. This puts peer providers in the unique position of being service providers who have lived experience in successfully addressing the impact of the illness rather than just the symptoms of the illness.
The perspective and unique abilities of peer support providers strengthen the integrated care team in many ways. There are six key gifts peer providers bring to the integrated care team:
- The Gift of Insight. Internalized shame shatters a person’s sense of self-worth. For many, the impact on their daily lives and interactions can be harder to overcome than the symptoms of their illness. Peer providers have insight on how internalized shame results from discrimination, social exclusion, poverty, homelessness, and hopelessness.
- The Gift of “Been There, Done That.” Peer providers eliminate the “you do not know what it’s like” excuse. Peer providers can make others living with mental illnesses or addictions feel comfort in the fact that they are not alone; they have a person on their side that has been through similar experiences and has gotten through them.
- The Gift of Compassion. Because of their lived experience, peer support providers understand and are inherently grateful for the very services they are now providing to others. This gratitude often manifests itself in deep compassion for their peers.
- The Gift of Hope. Working with someone who has moved from hopelessness to hope is extremely empowering. People can often see themselves in the peer providers, which gives them hope over their whole health.
- The Gift of Trust. Peer providers are in a unique position to develop a relationship of trust. Peers are often more willing to share their real issues, concerns, hopes, and dreams with a peer provider rather than non-peer, clinical staff.
- The Gift of Whole- Health Self-Management. Peer providers have developed the gift of self-managing their lives holistically, including both mind and body. This experience with self-managing their whole health is one of the most powerful gifts peer providers can give. They have learned to recognize triggers and early warning signs, counteract the negative impact of stress, and create plans for taking care of themselves.
What is peer support
Peer support occurs when two individuals with commonality share their own experience with one another equally. This can be economic, social, religious, professional or just about any area where there is commonality. When we use the term peer support we are referring to individuals who have experinced psychiatric symptoms of some sort. Having a lived experience is different from a learned experience.
Some key concepts of peer support
Use your own experience Provide sense of hope
Speak in recovery language Use “I” or “Me” words
Be in the moment Comes from a place of love and compassion
Peer-based recovery support is the process of giving and receiving non-clinical assistance to achieve long term recovery from mental health, physical health and substance abuse issues. This support is provided by people who are experientially credentialed and trained to assist others in initiating recovery, maintaining recovery, and enhancing the quality of personal and family life in long-term recovery. (As defined by the Montana Peer Support Task Force. To find out more visit www.mtpeernetwork.org)
Peer support is rapidly growing across the nation.There are many different types of peer support such as Warmlines, which are 800 numbers that provide peer support, as they are staffed by individuals who have “been there”. These are not crisis lines, they provide peer support (non professional) and information. Below there is a link to national warmlines including Montanas. Another place to find peer support in Montana is in Drop in Centers. This is a place where one can go to find peer support regardless of diagnosis. We currently have Drop in Centers in Livingston, Bozeman, Butte, Billings, Helena and Missoula. They are free and can also provide information, resources and socilization. A place to connect with others. Support groups are another form of peer support. NAMI’s has a peer to peer support group, see link below. Recovery International and SMART Recovery are other types of peer support groups found in Montana. Virtually any support group that does not include a professional can be considered a peer support group. If there isn’t one in your community and you would like to start one, contact our office for assistance.
Pillars of Peer Support http://pillarsofpeersupport.org
National data and research around peer support services from across the nation 3 reports
Articles about peer support
Peer Involvement Pivitol for Re-Entry Effort for Offenders
National Youth Leadership Network www.nyln.org
Voice Collective http://www.voicecollective.co.uk/voices/voices_what.html
Peer Support for young people who hear and see and sense things others don’t
Warmlines listed by state
Why is it unique?
Peer Support Specialist Programs and Information by State
Alaska Peer Support Consortium
Alabama Peer Specialist Association
Arizona Recovery Empowerment Network
Definitions for Peer Support Specialists
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Facebook Peer Support Specialist
Florida Peer Network
Georgia Certified Peer Support Specialist Project
Indiana Certified Peer Specialist
Institute for Recovery and Community Integration
National Association of Peer Specialist
North Carolina’s Peer Support Specialist Program
Pennsylvania Peer Support Coalition
Pittsburgh, PA Peer Support and Advocacy Network
Effectivness of consumer run programs