In today’s world healthcare decisions are becoming increasingly complicated. Luckily, the power of shared decision making in peer support shines though as a beacon of light.
Imagine a healthcare journey where patients and peers actively participate in the decision-making process. Everyone working to bring together their collective knowledge and experience. All while shaping their own paths to recovery.
In this article we will dive into the potential of shared decision-making in peer support. Moreover, we will cover the benefits, explain the process, and provide some tools that can enhance the journey towards wellbeing.
Table of Contents
What is Shared Decision Making?
More than anything, shared decision making is about collaboration.
It involves healthcare providers, patients, and peers, working together to make informed choices about treatment plans, interventions, and support strategies.
More importantly, it recognizes that individuals possess unique perspectives and valuable insights into their own health and recovery journey.
By sharing the decision-making process, it allows for open communication, mutual respect, and active involvement from everyone. It prioritizes autonomy, preferences, and personal beliefs.
Ultimately, it leads to more patient-centered care.
How Does It Work?
In truth, the name says it all. When we embrace this core competency of peer support (and yes, it is one of the core competencies) we allow the other person to take the lead in their own care. We can facilitate this process by asking questions, listening, and supporting their choices.
That last part is important. Sometimes we may not agree with the decision of someone we are supporting. However, by supporting them, we are reinforcing their ability to manage their own life.
Similarly, when working with individuals for the first time, we should take time to ask about thier preferences. This helps get buy in for recovery and puts them in position to take a more active role in their care.
The benefits of shared decision-making
Shared decision-making is a key aspect of peer support. With it, come numerous benefits to the recovery process. Still, if it was nothing more than having a healthcare provider listen to you and take you choices and preferences into consideration, it would still be worth it.
If you have ever experienced being shut down when trying to express yourself to a clinician, then you already know this.
Let’s look at some of the benefits.
Enhanced patient satisfaction
When individuals are actively involved in the decision making process, their satisfaction with the health care experience increases. Shared decision making gives them a sense of ownership and control over their own care.
In this approach, peers and the individuals collaborate, ensuring that decisions are made in line with their values, preferences, and unique characteristics.
Which in turn, can lead to more positive outcomes.
Increased trust and collaboration
Shared decision-making builds trust and collaboration between peers and individuals seeking support. It promotes open communication, active listening, and mutual respect.
This approach not only benefits the individuals seeking support but also creates a more meaningful and rewarding experience for us as peer support workers.
When people know we are in their corner, it makes the process of recovery less intimidating.
Improved treatment adherence
Shared decision making has been shown to improve treatment adherence. This is due to individuals being more likely to follow through with decisions they have actually participated in making.
By engaging in discussions, exploring options, and weighing the pros and cons, people gain a better understanding or the reasoning behind the chosen treatment plan.
Tools and Strategies for Shared Decision Making In Peer Support
Sometimes, individuals seeking help may not be used to being able to express themselves in healthcare settings. In times like these, there are tools and strategies that can help.
Let’s look at some of the ways we can encourage shared decision making and incorporate our peer support values.
Decision aids are valuable little tools that provide information and support during the decision-making process. These aids can take various forms, such as brochures, videos, or interactive online platforms.
Typically, they discuss different treatment options, as well as potential risks and benefits. This evidence based information is presented to help individuals make informed choices about the care they receive.
Moreover, it allows them to choose options that line up with their values and preferences.
For example, a decision aid for selecting a treatment option might include information about the effectiveness, potential side effects, and impact on daily life.
Additionally, it could provide prompts or questions to encourage individuals to consider their personal values and goals.
Incorporating personal experiences
One of the strengths of peer support lies in our shared experiences. Incorporating personal experiences into the decision making process can greatly increase its effectiveness.
Peers can share their own stories, challenges, and outcomes related to a specific treatment option or intervention. These personal stories provide valuable insights and emotional support. Which in turn, helps individuals get a better understanding or the potential impact of their choices.
However, it should be noted that when sharing your experiences, the focus should be on empowering others to make their own choices.
This process should not include telling people what they should or should not do. It’s important to be mindful of how your stories might influence a person.
Sometimes the most valuable skill we have as peer support workers is active listening. Asking open ended questions and giving the person room to speak openly is often the simplest and easiest way to facilitate shared decision making.
When someone is able to speak about a decision and hear the options in their own words, it helps them realize what they really want.
Moreover, the simple experience of having another person listen to their concerns and perspective can be empowering. Too often in healthcare settings, choices are made for individuals without their input.
Sometimes just giving them the opportunity to talk it out for themselves can be enough.
Applying Shared Decision Making in Peer Support
Choices about one’s recovery, whether from addiction, mental health challenges, or any number of situations can feel disconnected and overwhelming. When we share the decision making process, people are given a voice.
More importantly, their choices are respected, and their individuality is respected.
We hope this article was helpful in understand how this principle works in peer support. Would you leave us a comment and let us know how we did?
We want to make this platform a place where all peer support professionals can come to learn and grow. With your help, we think we can do exactly that!
Elijah Meason is a Certified Peer Support Worker in the State of New Mexico. He is a SMART Recovery facilitator and is working toward getting his Masters degree in social work. He is currently working at a dual diagnosis treatment center helping individuals overcome mental health and addiction challenges.