The Contribution of Peer Support to Recovery
The development of the peer support worker roles is one part of wider efforts to develop recovery-focused mental health services. The drive to create these roles comes from a recognition of the unique role that peers can play in promoting and supporting recovery. Let’s now take some time to examine the relationship between peer support and recovery in more detail.
Peer support values lived experience
Valuing lived experience is an important principle of recovery approaches. It is unique in that it asks us to apply our lived experience of mental health and recovery in support of others. This means people with experience of mental health problems are seen as part of the solution with a role to play in promoting and supporting recovery. This can promote hope as well as strengthen a sense of purpose and a positive identity for people affected by mental health issues.
Peer support is based on a belief in recovery
A belief in recovery is vital and peer support workers demonstrate that recovery is possible to the people around them. They can also generate relationships that show other peers they also have the power to recover.
Not being the expert
Peer support is a way of offering help and support on a more equal footing. It’s about people finding a way forward together, where people are recognised as experts in their own experience. Good peer support also works in a way that acknowledges that both parties can learn things from each other and support each other’s recovery journey. They are not based on trying to fix people or one person being the ‘expert.’ This is a long way from the expert-patient dynamic that has been developed over a long time. It’s especially important for recovery given as we have seen it is such a unique and individual experience.
Peer practices are informed by recovery
Peer supporters are trained to share recovery based principles and approaches in their work with other people. These include adopting strengths-based and empowering approaches which focus on what people can do as much as on their needs and deficits.7