Working in peer support, you will find yourself faced with many choices. What you have to remember is that those choices can have a profound impact on someone’s life.
Understanding the peer support values will help you navigate the decision making process, while still prioritizing the wellbeing of the individuals you serve.
More than anything, they can act as a guiding force in your role as a peer specialist.
In this article, we will cover the core values of peer support and look at why each one is important. By the end you will have a solid understanding of where you stand in your role and how to make the best decisions possible.
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Why Values Matter In Peer Support
Ok, before we jump into the core values for peer support, let’s talk about values and why they matter.
Values act as a kind of compass. They guide us through the maze of decisions that we face on a daily basis.
Having this compass allows us to make choices based on a set of standards and keeps us grounded when facing challenging situations.
In the case of peer support, values provide a framework for everything we do. They ensure that each individual receives the same treatment and respect. Moreover, they create a safe and consistent environment where people know what to expect.
Besides, most of these values are included in the core competencies of peer support.
Peer Support Values
Along with being our guiding compass, values provide the foundation that our everyday interactions are based on. They are the pillars for effective peer support and set the stage for growth, healing, and positive change.
Let’s dive into the core values of peer support and examine each one.
Peer Support in Voluntary
Peer support operates on the principle of voluntary participation. It’s not about trying to force anyone to live a certain life or to adopt specific beliefs. It’s certainly not about telling people what they need or don’t need.
Rather, we extend the invitation and allow people to decide whether they are interested in what we have to offer. This can all be done when obtaining informed consent from the individual you are supporting.
When individuals are able to choose for themselves, it creates a sense of autonomy. More importantly, it encourages people to take ownership of their own recovery. It creates buy-in and can actually lead to better outcomes in mental health and addiction recovery.
Personal choice is powerful.
Peer Support Specialists are Hopeful
In peer support, there is the belief that everyone has the capability to recover and live a better life. In other words, we have hope for every person we work with, regardless of their story or background.
This hope inspires others to believe in themselves and their ability to overcome challenges. On a deeper level, it instills resilience and provides motivation for change.
Working in peer support, we serve as an example that recovery is possible and that hope for a better life is not in vain.
Peer Support is Open Minded
Again, everyone has the ability to recover and live a better life. More than that, everyone is deserving of support, encouragement, and community. Open-mindedness involves setting aside preconceived notions and embracing diverse perspectives and backgrounds.
Peer support requires a safe and judgment-free space where people can express themselves without fear of rejection or criticism. This open-minded approach nurtures inclusivity and encourages understanding.
This means being open-minded about recovery as well.
Just because something works for one person, doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for someone else. Regardless of which path someone chooses on their recovery journey, we should be there to support them and help them be successful in any way we can.
Peer Support is Empathetic
Empathy is the foundation for effective peer support. It allows us to understand someone’s emotions, experiences, and the challenges they face. More importantly, it allows us to connect with someone on a deeper level and provide support based on their individual needs.
Our own challenges with mental health and addiction can be a bridge to empathetic connections. That being said, I am sure we all know what it feels like to hurt, to be hopeless, to be lost.
In all reality, we are all not that different from each other.
Peer Support is Respectful
Respect is fundamental, in peer support and life in general. This includes being respectful of their experiences, their choices, and the person as a whole. Moreover, it means acknowledging and respecting their boundaries.
Doing so builds trust and ensures that everyone’s voice is being heard. Respect can go a long way in making someone feel valued and appreciated.
Which in turn, can encourage them to take a more active role in their recovery.
Peer Support Specialists Facilitate Change
As peer specialists and recovery coaches, we play a central role in facilitating positive change in the lives of others. This includes providing guidance, resources, encouragement, and practical tools that will help in the recovery process.
Through active listening, problem-solving, and goal-setting, we can help individuals navigate challenges. More importantly, we can help them overcome these challenges and make meaningful progress in their lives.
Peer Support is Honest and Direct
Beating around the bush, and sugarcoating the truth does nothing for someone in recovery. In fact, it can do more harm than good. While it is important to be sensitive and respectful in all of our interactions, being honest and direct is equally so.
In essence, it is a form of respect for the individual and their well-being. Providing feedback and guidance with sincerity helps individuals explore areas for potential growth.
Additionally, it may help someone recognize a potential problem they hadn’t noticed before.
As I am sure you can tell, many of the peer support values are basically saying, “Just be a good person”.
Peer support is Mutual and Reciprocal
Peer support is a two way street, where both parties benefit from the relationship. As we offer guidance and assistance, we gain insight and learn from the experiences of others.
This mutual exchange of support creates both connection and respect.
Because peer support is a collaborative process, it recognizes that everyone has strengths and wisdom to contribute.
We can all learn from each other, regardless of our roles or where we are in the recovery process.
Peer Support is Equally Shared Power
In peer support relationships, power dynamics are leveled and everyone is on equal ground. We can promote shared decision-making, and make sure that people have a say in their own recovery. As one of the peer support values, this sets the tone for the relationship.
Mainly, because it encourages a sense of empowerment because individuals have a choice in how they receive care.
Moreover, it helps individuals realize that they are capable of making good decisions and managing their life. By encouraging self-determination, we enable them to take charge of their own recovery.
The last thing we want is for someone to feel unsure of themselves because every choice has been made for them. Worse still, for someone to feel resentful because they were forced into something.
Peer Support is Strengths Focused
Too often is the focus placed solely on a person’s problems and weaknesses. To empower individuals, peer support embraces a strengths-based approach. In other words, it recognizes and builds upon a person’s strengths, talents, and abilities.
Peer support helps individuals identify their unique assets and apply them in their recovery.
This strength-based perspective instills confidence, builds resilience, and promotes a positive self-image.
Values As A Foundation
As we said before, these peer support values are the foundation for the work you do. As challenges arise and you find yourself facing difficult obstacles, they are something solid to fall back on. More that anything, they guide the interactions with the individuals you support.
When you find yourself unsure of what to do, let your values lead the way. This is how we stay recovery oriented in our interaction and support.
We hope you found this article helpful and we want to thank you for the work you do. Also, we want to know how we are doing with the resources we are providing.
Leave a comment and let us know what you found helpful and anything we could do to improve!
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.