• Mary Lindqvist

The Power of the Peer

Historically, people seeking treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues were left facing a choice of either a traditional 12-step program or a medical field of doctors, medications and therapists all offering their best clinical answers and advice. Sometimes, the treatment would lead to long term care management programs where a licensed social worker would help create some life goals to achieve. All of this would be called the “treatment plan” and the expectation was to follow the plan set up and all would be right with the world. Not the most effective way to recovery. Recently, there’s been a shift in thinking and the paradigm began to shift. Suddenly, everyone is talking about recovery and the best way to assist those seeking it.

Enter the Peer Support Specialists! The idea is very simple yet supremely affective. Who better to relate to someone in need of mental health or substance abuse recovery than someone who has lived experience -someone who, by their own life story, can meet that person exactly on the level they are at and understand explicitly what they are going through. Peer Support Specialists are trained and certified by the State of Wisconsin and they are being used in more areas every day. Currently, Kenosha utilizes Peer Support Specialists for mental health and addiction recovery at Bridges Community Center (5718-7th Avenue), and in Crisis Prevention/Intervention (1202-60th Street). Hope Council (5942-6th Avenue) employs Recovery Coaches – a more highly trained, specialized peer coach who works with those in recovery.

Peer to Peer Support engages those in need in a deeper, more meaningful way. Every person has a unique journey to their recovery. This means services must respond to them in a wider range of ways to meet their needs. Peer Support can be flexible and more malleable.

They are amazing role models who, by sharing their experiences, and modeling their lives, inspire hope that recovery is possible. Peer Support Specialists work with a person in their communities to support their goals and help guide them to long term meaningful recovery.

There is, of course, evidence that the use of Peer Support can and has decreased the use of in-patient hospitalization for people in mental health recovery and has reduced the incidents of relapse among those in recovery for substance abuse issues. It makes sense that offering someone the choice to speak to someone who’s “been there, done that, got through it, and thrived” would have a positive influence on recovery. Meeting people where they are, seeing them for who they are, and sharing life experiences is the Power of the Peer!

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