Trauma-Informed Organization: Peer Support
Posted on July 26, 2022
Peer support is receiving support or assistance from someone that has been in a situation like our own. When we get support from someone that we have shared experiences with, it allows us to feel safe, heard and understood, because of the connection those experiences help us create.
Unlike therapy, peer support can come from anyone that shares a common experience with us. This can be a co-worker, friend and even someone in an online group.
Burnout and self-care are common topics of discussion in our work. However, it’s equally important for us to take care of each other. Often, our co-workers will be the first to know when something is wrong. So, what can you do when you see a co-worker is struggling?
- Ask how they’re doing
- This can be a generic question. We often ask people, “How are you?” without really being invested in the response, which tends to be “okay,” “fine,” “good,” etc. It’s important to be authentic and be prepared to take the time to hear the response.
- Let them know you’re there for them
- Sometimes a person may not be ready to talk, or they say things are good even though that isn’t true. You can still let them know you’re there for them whenever they’re ready. You might say “how can I support you?” or “I see you’re not yourself. I’m here when you need someone to listen.”
- Be prepared to just listen. It’s amazing how much of a conversation you can have with just using mild encouragers such as nodding your head, “mm-hm,” etc. It’s easy to want to problem-solve or tell someone what you would do/think/feel in a similar situation. Try to resist that impulse. Your co-worker will let you know when they’re ready for advice or suggestions.
Did You Know
A Peer Support Specialist or a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) is a professionally trained individual that has studied to be an effective peer support person. While training isn’t required to offer peer support, this helps:
- Assist with development of individual goals
- Serve as an advocate, or facilitator for issues that a peer may struggle to resolve on their own
- Develop community supports
- Provide education on maintaining personal wellness, recovery and navigating the metal health system
This month’s resource is NAMI of South Dakota, the Sioux Falls location.
Here’s a video that helps show the importance of sometimes just listening!
CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD PEER SUPPORT
- Offers living proof of wellness and makes recovery attractive.
- Shows faith in the ability to change; encourages and celebrates wellness achievements.
- Encourages self-advocacy and self-sufficiency
- Genuinely cares and listens, can be trusted, can identify areas for potential growth
- Tells the truth, is honest about recovery process, identifies roadblocks
- Is a role model for recovery and provides stage-appropriate wellness education
- Assists in structuring daily activities around a self-developed plan for wellness
- Helps resolve roadblocks and problems, both personal and environmental
- Is knowledgeable about help resources, community services and professional help
- Is a companion, an advocate, a cheerleader and an inspiration