Peer Support

Peer Support

Peer support programs are staffed by people who have “lived experience.” These staff members act as role models and mentors, offering social, emotional, and practical support while establishing a community based on mutuality and respect. Peers share their own experiences with recovery, parts of their journey, and story, to offer hope to those who are just beginning their recovery journey.

What Does A Peer Support Do?

A peer support specialist uses their own knowledge, experiences, and practical help, as well as trained listening skills and coaching models to offer support and encouragement to program participants as they meet their recovery goals. Peer support may help you connect with other supportive services, like food banks, clothing banks, shelter services, GED classes, and crisis services. Peer support can act as a bridge between clinical services and the participant, advocating on behalf of a participant in the in-patient and out-patient setting and helping the participant learn to self-advocate. Peer support specialists may help a participant in learning practical skills, from learning to do laundry to obtaining a library card, to researching and enrolling in an occupational training program, and more. They can offer a shoulder when a participant is struggling and just needs someone to talk to as well.

Who Can Benefit From Peer Support?

Recovery is not just for addiction. Recovery occurs on many healing journeys, from a mental health crisis, traumatic injury, cancer, incarceration, military service, bereavement, and many other demographics can benefit greatly from peer support. Recovery can seldom be accomplished alone. Knowing that others have been through similar struggles, and have recovered, can be invaluable.

Why Peer Support Matters

One of the biggest factors in recovery is the recovery environment. A recovery environment is defined by the support that a person has at their disposal. Clinical support is only one part of the puzzle. A person struggling with addiction will have a lower chance of recovery if they live with others who are actively using. A person with mental health illness will continue to struggle if their family and friends brush off their struggles and tell them to suck it up and “just try to be happy!” Peer support programs cultivate an environment prime for recovery, as everyone in the program has had experience with similar struggles and is choosing to come together to offer mutual support.

Benefits Of Peer Support

Participating in a peer support program can offer many benefits:

Goal Setting

Recovery takes effort and direction. Planning for recovery and setting goals is very much a part of the recovery process. A peer support specialist can help you define what recovery means for you, set recovery goals, and keep you accountable to your plan.

Community And Connection

Isolation and separation contribute to illness and addiction. By building community and fostering social connections, recovery is much easier to attain and maintain. Peer support communities help to dispel the stigma attached to mental illness and addiction, offering participants a space to safely acknowledge their struggles and strengths without judgment or expectation. You can build confidence, self-esteem, dignity, and self-respect in a community focused on recovery.

Skill Building

Symptom management and self-help are skills that can be learned. Peer support specialists can help you explore ways to manage your symptoms and empower you to take control of your treatment and recovery. Not every treatment model or method is right for every person. In the peer support world, recovery is treated holistically, meaning each person’s recovery journey will be unique. Learning what does and does not work for you can be a struggle if you have no resources. Your peer support group can use their own experiences to offer suggestions to help figure out what might work for you.