Imagine this scenario:
You have been in a peer support relationship with Sue for a couple of months and things seem to be progressing well. She has told you how much she enjoys working with you and you’re feeling pretty confident. Today she tells you that she is afraid of talking to her doctor about decreasing her medication. Sue knows that you successfully reduced your medication in the past and asks you to talk to her doctor on her behalf.
There are a variety of ways to respond to Sue as a peer. Think about the different responses you could give, and how Sue might react to them. Your responses might include:
- Persuading Sue that she can do it herself… “If I managed it so can you.”
- Offering to speak to the doctor for Sue as requested.
- Refusing point blank to get involved in the discussion… “I’m not supposed to talk about people’s treatments – I’m here to work on recovery with you”’
Consider the roles being assumed in this scenario, thinking back to the Drama Triangle and the parent-adult-child dynamics. Think about the role and impact of power in this situation.
When working through a response which maintains mutuality and empowerment there is likely to be a process of negotiation and discussion between Sue and the peer supporter. To support this you, as peer supporter, will have to do some or all of the following:
- Question their feelings about themselves and Sue. What are they assuming about Sue after she had seemed so competent before?
- Be present and aware of what Sue is feeling, and also curious about where this is coming from.
- Be aware that Sue sees the peer supporter as having more power and more capability.
- Make a connection by validating Sue’s experience: “I can see that must be a difficult situation for you…”
- Ask questions that respectfully open up her ‘story’: Why is she looking for someone to ‘fix it’? What happened in the past that is frightening her? How can we agree a way forward that ensures Sue is in control?