Recovery Oriented Peer Support: A Revolutionary Approach

Recovery oriented is one of the core competencies of peer support as defined by SAMSHA.

But what does that really mean?

In this article we will explore the meaning and significance of recovery-oriented peer support. Moreover, we will look at how this benefits the individuals we serve. 

Table of Contents

Defining Recovery Oriented Peer Support

Being recovery-oriented means much more than just lending an ear or offering comforting words. It is a person-centered approach that focuses on hope, resilience, and personal choice. 

In recovery-oriented peer support, the emphasis is placed on the strengths and capabilities of individuals rather than mistakes or weaknesses.

Moreover, it recognizes that each person’s journey towards recovery is unique and that they have the ability to guide their own path.

Working together in recovery oriented peer support

Now more than ever, the importance of recovery-oriented approach in peer support settings cannot be overstated. Don’t me wrong, traditional support methods may have their strong points.

However, adopting a recovery oriented approach opens up a world of possibilities for people seeking support.

It encourages them to reclaim control over their lives, while nurturing their sense of self-worth. Overall, it creates a place where healing and growth can flourish.

Recovery Oriented Vs. Traditional

Traditional support methods definitely have their place. However, they tend to focus on professional led interventions. The unfortunate part is that many of those interventions center on a deficit based perspective. 

In other words, they look at what is wrong with the person and focus on their problems. In contrast, recovery oriented support takes a  more positive stance. 

It emphasizes self-determination while still making room for collaboration and partnership. By encouraging individuals to identify their goals, preferences, and strengths, we give them the confidence and direction to move forward. 

Finally, rather than symptom management or crisis intervention, its overall goal is long-term recovery. 

Key Principles of the Recovery-Oriented Approach

Recovery oriented peer support is built on a set of principles and values that guide our approach to helping the individuals we work with. At the heart of it all lies a belief in hope, resilience, and the capacity for human growth.

It recognizes that recovery is unique and deeply personal process, acknowledging the diverse pathways that individuals take.

It makes sense why this is one of the core competencies of peer support. 

  • Person Centeredness

    Being recovery-oriented means placing individuals at the center of their own recovery, valuing their autonomy, experiences, and choices. It acknowledges their strengths, skills, and aspirations, shifting the focus from illness to wellness.

  • Empowerment

    This approach promotes self determination and personal choice, empowering individuals to take an active role in their own recovery. It helps create a sense of ownership and control over one’s life allowing people to make informed decisions about their own wellbeing.

  • Holistic Approach

    Recovery oriented peer support understands that wellness encompasses various dimensions of life, including physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing. We emphasize the importance of addressing the whole person.

In other words, we recognize they are the heroes of their own story! We are simply helpful guides along the way. Using this approach as peer support workers, we are able to help them see this side of themselves and that is truly an amazing honor.

Benefits of Recovery Oriented Peer Support

There are numerous benefits to applying a recovery-oriented approach. Each one works together to address multiple aspects of a person’s wellbeing.  Here are some of the key benefits that come from applying this to our work.

Increased Self-Empowerment

This approach empowers individuals to take charge of their own recovery. It helps them build self-confidence, develop self-advocacy skills, and make their own choices about what their recovery looks like.

Reduced Stigma and Isolation

By connecting with peers who have faced similar challenges, individuals can find a safe space free from judgment.

Which in turn, allows them to focus on their strengths and the progress they are making in recovery.

The worst cruelty that can be inflicted on a human being is isolation.

Expanded Support Network

Engaging in a recovery-oriented approach allows individuals to build a strong support network that covers multiple groups, programs, and social circles. These connections provide ongoing encouragement, guidance, and understanding throughout their journey.

Recovery Oriented Choices

As people, when we make our own choices about the direction of our life, it’s easier to follow through. More than that, we can feel good about the decisions we’ve made. we are more likely to follow through.

We adopt a recovery oriented mindset when we help others understand that they are capable of making those choices. Moreover, that they can be successful and confident doing so.

This also mean we need to respect those choices whether we agree with them or not. 

Woman feeling unsure of her decisions

If we don’t, they may be left feeling unsure about themselves, especially when faced with a tough decision.

Or worse, they may feel as though we are telling them what to do, which as I am sure you know, doesn’t usually work out well.

This is why shared decision making is such an integral part of peer support

As peer support specialists, we also share our struggles and the routes we took to overcome them. From there, people can decide to take it or leave it. We lead by example, showing those around us that recovery is possible.

In doing so, we invite them to walk alongside us on their path towards a better life. Overall, the goal is to show them their not alone.

Even more, that they are capable doing what we have done.

Challenges in Staying Recovery Oriented

Implementing a recovery-oriented approach in peer support comes with its own set of challenges and different things to consider. It is important to be aware of potential barriers and actively work towards overcoming them.

This is what creates an inclusive and supportive environment for the individuals we work with.

Potential Barriers To A Recovery Oriented Approach

  • Systemic barriers

    We need to be aware of systemic barriers within the healthcare system that may hinder the focus of recovery-oriented practices. These can include limited resources, rigid treatment models, and a focus on symptom management rather than holistic recovery. Remember, this approach takes into account the whole person and focuses on building up their strengths rather than managing their problems.

  • Lack of education and training

    As peer support workers, we need to be continuously furthering our education and training. Doing so provides us with the knowledge and skills to implement these practices effectively. This includes more than just training and taking classes related to our field. More than that, we need to be continually learning about ourselves and how we interact with the individuals we support.

Overcoming Stigma and Promoting Inclusivity

Part of the recovery oriented process includes making individuals feel valued and heard. Stigma around mental health, combined with discriminatory practices can get in the way. This is where we come in as peer support professionals. 

We can step into our our roles and make sure that recovery oriented support is accessible to all individuals. Regardless of socio-economic status, location, criminal history, or any other barrier, we should strive to create an inclusive environment. 

Final Notes On Recovery Oriented Peer Support

Adopting a recovery-oriented approach in peer support settings holds tremendous benefits for individuals on their journey towards well-being and resilience.

By focusing on strengths, encouraging personal choice, and promoting community, we create an environment that supports personal growth and positive change.

It recognizes that individuals are experts in their own recovery and invites them to take an active role in shaping their journey.

Woman feeling confident.

Call To Action

Embracing this approach not only benefits the individuals we work with but also strengthens the peer support community as a whole. By shifting the focus from illness to wellness, we can break down barriers and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

This is a call to action for peer support providers, organizations, and individuals alike to champion the principles of recovery, cultivate empathy, and create spaces that foster hope, understanding, and connection.

Together, we can take a recovery-oriented approach in peer support and empower one another on the path to recovery and well-being.

Would you leave us a comment and let us know how we are doing? We value your input as part of the MHAPSS community!

What are the main benefits of a recovery-oriented approach?

A recovery oriented approach lets people take charge of their recovery journey. It looks at the bigger picture taking into consideration more than just an individuals symptoms. Finally, it makes sure that support is tailored to their own needs and goals. 

How is a recovery-oriented approach different from traditional methods?

Unlike traditional methods, a recovery oriented approach puts great value on peer support and the power of shared experiences. Being person centered, it encourages individuals to set their own goals and make their own choices. Moreover, it focuses on long-term wellbeing rather than just immediate solutions.

Can recovery-oriented peer support help with different mental health issues?

Absolutely, recovery oriented peer support offers understanding and shared experiences that work for various mental health and addiction challenges. 

How can you add recovery-oriented practices to support groups?

To incorporate recovery oriented practices, its crucial to create a space where everyone feels safe and is encouraged to share. Even more, those with personal experiences should be given the opportunity to lead. The focus should be on recognizing  the strengths and capabilities of the individual.

Elijah Meason


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.


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