What is Peer Support?

Peer support workers are people who have been diagnosed with mental health or substance use disorders and who have been successful in the recovery process. Peer support is a mutual relationship between another person who has experienced similar issues. The relationship encompasses a wide range of activities and interactions that promote engagement in recovery, instill connection with others, and inspire hope. Peer support offers a level of acceptance, understanding, and validation that is critical for people who have experienced difficulty in mainstream pathways toward recovery.  

What Does a Peer Support Worker Do?

By sharing lived experience, offering practical guidance, maintaining respect, and demonstrating empowerment, peer workers offer the extra encouragement that helps people to remain engaged in the recovery process. Peer workers sustain engagement by assisting people in developing goals, creating strategies for self-empowerment, and taking concrete steps towards building fulfilling, self-determined lives.

Peer support can take many forms – phone calls, texting, group meetings, home visits, going for walks, grocery shopping, attending events, and more. The process complements and enhances other health care services by creating the emotional, social and practical assistance necessary for managing daily life and staying healthy.

Peer Support Workers

  • Inspire hope that people can and do recover
  • Walk with people on their recovery journeys
  • Dispel myths about what it means to have a mental health condition or substance use disorder
  • Support people in identifying their goals, hopes, and dreams, and creating a roadmap for getting there
  • Provide self-help education and link people to tools and resources

How does peer support help?

People in recovery often experience a disconnect with service providers that is the result of a multitude of barriers. Peer support workers help to break down such barriers by advocating for the interests of their peers and evening out the power dynamics that exist between people in recovery and members of their treatment teams. The role of a peer supporter serves to complement but not duplicate or replace the roles of therapists, case managers and other members of a treatment team.

Having a peer supporter on your team is like having a partner in recovery who is there to validate your experience and walk with you through the dross of institutionalized oppression and misconception. The main thing that sets peer workers apart from the medical treatment team is that peer workers uphold the basic understanding that each person is the expert in their own lives and should thus be in charge of their own recovery. The peer supporter’s role is to assist people in finding and following their own recovery paths, without judgment, expectation, rules, or requirements.

Peer workers support progress towards recovery and self-determined lives by sharing experiential information and real examples of recovery. The sense of mutuality developed through thoughtful sharing of experience is influential in modeling recovery and offering hope.

Benefits of Peer Support May Include:

Source: What is peer support? (n.d.). SAMHSA. https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/programs_campaigns/brss_tacs/peer-support-2017.pdf

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