Peer Support is essentially individuals supporting other individuals with similar or shared experiences. This support is offered one-to-one or in a group setting. The benefits of peer support are numerous, including that the supporter has credibility and is trusted because they have been through a similar experience.
It’s important for the person needing support to know that those listening to him or her really get what they are feeling. As an example, while I have experienced loss through miscarriage, I have not suffered the death of a child. On the other hand, as a widow, I have lived the experience of losing my best friend and the father of my children and I truly get what that emotional roller coaster feels like.
Individuals sharing their experiences can offer one another ideas and suggestions for coping with a situation or finding solutions to a problem. Peer supporters also inspire one another ~ when people see that another has survived a situation and moved forward in life, it gives them hope and courage to do what they need to do to get better or make changes.
Peer support groups bring together friends and strangers in a safe, nurturing environment to share stories and offer support. Along with building trust and credibility, groups do need to stress the importance of confidentiality and be clear when confidentiality would be broken. An acceptable explanation is, “You can share with your family and friends about what you said or what you felt while in the group. You cannot share what others have said or done. Confidentiality will be broken if a person threatens to harm themselves or others.”
The peer mentor or facilitator should receive training to lead the group. The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury documented in their Identification of Best Practices for Peer Support: White Paper (January 2011) the key components for peer support as:
- Adequate training must be provided to peer supporters so they are able to:
- Identify and be aware of signs of stress
- Know when to reach out to others for assistance
- Facilitate referrals to additional resources
- A program must be able to follow through with individuals to monitor improvement
- Individuals must feel safe to make use of the program
- Strong confidentiality agreements
On a final note, in my opinion, to be an effective peer supporter, the person has to have done their own work so they can truly be present to others. Peer support is a wonderful way to give back and to help others on the journey ~ consider becoming a peer supporter today!
Registration for Brave Hearts 2014 will open in September so if you would like to be a part of our online community, email Myriah to set up a free 30 minute consultation with me to discuss if this program fits your needs.
s_Jan_2011.pdf (page 16) Retrieved: October 5, 2011