Peer workers are expected to role model hope and recovery within the peer relationship.
- Peer workers are evidence of the reality of recovery
- They are evidence that people can learn and grow from challenges and setbacks
- They are evidence that we all have hopes, dreams, and aspirations and can work towards and live out our potential.
- This offers something for people to aspire to.
However there is a need to be careful about sharing of lived experience:
- Your recovery story and what helped you may not be for everyone.
- You need to use lived experience and your story constructively and thoughtfully.
- The purpose is to inspire hope, show empathy and mutuality; not to share your story.
How to share lived experience (your story) intentionally:
- Seek to discover common ground – ask questions and listen as well as sharing
- Only share what is needed for the relationship at that time – stories should not be told in one sitting
- Recognise that each person is unique – each person’s experience reflects what they have come to know because of where they have been
- Understand the difference between an illness story and a recovery story.
- Illness stories communicate how bad it is and elicit sympathy rather than create hope.
What do we need to think about when sharing lived experience?
- It’s about learning and re-naming of experiences – encouraging each other to re-evaluate what we know and we make sense of our experiences.
- Accept people for who they are. They are looking for validation not fixing. This is where peer support should be focused.
- Find out about them – preferences, needs etc – before sharing to ensure your sharing is relevant, appropriate.
- Remember that you as a peer worker are in a mutual relationship – walking alongside, learning from each other – your story will not have all the answers.
- Be focused on the relationship and nurture that as a strong basis for sharing experiences and mutual learning and growth.
- Understand that you and those people you are in a peer relationship with will have limits and boundaries and these can change over time. Be mindful of this.
- Peer workers do not have all the answers. They have lived experience which they can use intentionally to support people to make sense of their experiences and take control of their recovery.