Peer Support – A Complete Guide To Peer Support In 2020

Do you need peer support? Are you feeling overwhelmed with life? Do you feel like no one understands you? Do you have a family member in need of guidance in different areas of their life? If you are reading this article, it is probably because you need peer guidance. If this sounds like you, you have come to the right place.

My Name is Sean Galla. I am an experienced peer support facilitator with more than 10 years of overseeing peer support processes online. I have firsthand experience on how peer support groups can help one to overcome different hurdles in life. If you are a man in need of support, a support program for men can be the best choice you ever make in your life. Through group support, you can become a better man and lead a better, more fulfilling life.   

In this article, you will learn about peer support and what it is all about.

Sean Galla

Written by

Sean Galla

An experienced facilitator, community builder and Peer Support Specialist, Sean has been running men's groups for 10+ years. Read Sean's Full Author Bio.

What Is Peer Support?

Support peer groups can be defined as a form of help offered by role models who have gone through similar situations. This can be social, practical, or emotional. More importantly, this support is mutually provided and reciprocated, thus allowing everyone in the program to benefit from the help. The type of assistance provided can be more of a friendship or more like counseling or coaching. Regardless of the form of support provided, the lived experiences of the peer supporter are the most essential part of the service. This is why group supporters don’t need to be medical practitioners.

Regardless of how successful, smart, popular, or happy someone may seem on the outside, everyone has a battle they are fighting the world knows nothing about. When faced with a difficult life situation, most people feel alone, and a high percentage does not ask for help, This can often lead to substance abuse and mental illness. This is because most people, especially men, think that no one can understand them. Whether you are struggling with mental health issues or substance abuse, peer groups can work to help you to overcome these challenges.

Who Can Benefit From Peer Groups?

Peer groups can be useful for a wide range of health conditions. Alcoholics Anonymous and NA for substance use is one of the most common types of supportive peer groups. For this support, the addicts meet regularly as a way of helping each other to stay sober. Peer group is also beneficial to the health system for medical diagnosis, especially for conditions such as cancer and other diseases. Support groups can also be helpful for people going through life-altering conditions such as becoming new parents or losing a loved one.

A peer support program is usually designed in such a way that group supporters with adequate experience and knowledge can offer intentional support to their peers in need of services such as:

  • Emotional support 
  • Mental health issues
  • Relationship issues
  • Addiction
  • Divorce/ bereavement
  • Recovery support

The Importance of Peer Groups

Peer groups continue to grow in importance for various reasons. The number one reason is the fact that a peer group is not pegged on a specific diagnosis, meaning it can help people from all walks of life in need of peer support for different issues. Since a peer support group does not have to be defined by addiction or ailment, it is more focused on helping people with different needs.

There is an increase in the demand for mental health support services. There are not enough mental health professionals and clinics to cater to an ever-growing population. As life continues to be stressful, support groups can help to manage most mental health conditions related to everyday life. By meeting with peer mentors who share and understand your mental health issues, you can reduce the need for professional help.

Mental health is considered to be a health and safety issue in the workplace. Support groups can eliminate the need for a mental health worker with specialist training and still offer the help needed to maintain a psychologically safe workplace. Employees can create and run supportive groups where fellow employees can get free peer support services at work.

Types of Peer Support

Peer support can be classified as either formal or informal. The informal category can be offered in extension through social interactions/friendships, while the formal type is provided as part of clinical care.

Informal Peer Support

This occurs naturally amongst peers and is the most common type of peer groups. People in this type of group offer social support based on personal experiences on a peer-to-peer capacity or in a community.

Examples include:

Walk-in centers/clubhouses – These are social support programs that come in the form of a social and psychosocial recreational focus where support occurs naturally amongst the participants.

Mutual or self-help peer support – these are consumer operated organizations/peer activities/peer-run programs. They are voluntary and naturally occurring and offer reciprocal relationships amongst peers in a community setup. Good examples include social/recreational peer support groups, arts/culture peer support groups, spiritual/traditional healing peer support, work/recovery education peer support, disability/human rights peer support groups as well as anti-discrimination education peer support.

These types of support groups can be achieved using existing platforms such as YouTube, Facebook. And discussion forums. For instance, Mensgroup.com is an online-based judgment and stigma-free platform that offers support to men. It is run online where members in a supportive peer group can meet virtually via video calls or through chats and discussion forums. Support group members are well equipped to offer support to each other as a way of helping to troubleshoot problems from different life experiences. They can also share information on how to access further help if need be.

support peers in recovery

Formal Peer Support

This is also referred to as intentional peer support. It is a consumer operated support service offered within a community either in a group or in a one-to-one setup for the well-being of a patient and as part of mental health treatment. It focuses on issues related to education, employment, MH system navigation, housing, food security, individual/systemin advocacy, recovery education, internet, transportation, and anti-discrimination work, among others.

Examples include:

Workplace peer support – these are support programs that are work-based. Here, an employee with different life experiences is chosen and trained as a certified peer specialist to provide support to fellow employees going through similar issues.

Conventional/clinical MH system-based peer support – this is peer support evidence-based practice offered in a clinical setting. It included inpatient and outpatient service, institutionalized peer support, recovery centers, multi-disciplinary peer support groups, and rehabilitation crisis response centers.

Community clinical peer support – this is a support group program where support workers are selected to offer help services to clients/patients through the utilization of clinical services. This includes outpatient services, case management, A.C.T terms, and counseling.

These are usually affiliated with sponsoring organizations with paid peer providers. Because they operate as part of a more extensive system, peer workers in formal support peer services play a significant role in making it possible for the people under their care to access clinical help, recovery support services, help for substance use disorders, and other services if need be.

What Makes Peer Support Programs Successful?

How effective is a support peer

The success of peer groups is not dependent on whether the participants stay together or not. A successful supportive peer group will remain effective even when participants come and go, and as the dynamics and chemistry of the group changes.

The success of any support group is shown and dictated by the ability of the participants to remain empathetic, honest, and compassionate towards their peers. A reliable supporter/peer worker plays a significant role in the success of a support group program.

The purpose of a peer support specialist/worker

A support worker is more than just a timekeeper or a problem-solving leader. They are like a good parent who teaches confidence to the group while noting the strengths of each participant based on their unique skills. This is the best way to lead them towards the right path to becoming independent people through the program. The ultimate goal is to help participants to gather enough knowledge and experience to be able to pass on the skill to others in the effort to build a group support community.

The purpose of the participant

For a support program to help participants, they need to keep an open mind and show a willingness to change. They need to be patient enough to learn and practice active listening as a way of trying to build camaraderie and friendships with other participants. For a member to benefit from the program, they need to be able to accept constructive feedback and advice from their peers, as part of behavioral health improvement. Even the most seasoned group supporter cannot help a member who resists seeing their problems.

Numerous studies show that being part of a support program reduces reliance on formal recovery services, including the mental health system. Unlike institutionalized mental health services and hospitalized health care, informal support group gives members a sense of control over their direction and quality of life. This is achieved by developing a relationship built on trust and empathy, which allows them to create a plan that enables them to care for themselves outside of the group. This is the ultimate goal of peer support.

The Benefits of Peer Support

You meet with likeminded people – support groups puts you in contact with people who understand whatever it is you are going through. This is the best way to get the help you seek from people who have been there before.

Available support round the clock – peer groups and programs usually have a support line you can contact at any time. Online peer support groups are available 24/7 where you can join a discussion forum and learn from what others have posted, or a chat platform where you can have a one-on-one with a group supporter.

Specialization – peer groups come in many shapes and forms. Depending on your needs, there are mental health support groups, career advancement support groups, divorce peer support groups, parenting peer support groups, and many others.

Directed advice – peer groups offers directed guidance and help for different life issues. Whether you are facing problems at work or home, a peer group can help in ways other groups may not be able to. You will get advice specific to your situation to help you find a solution.

No judgment – regardless of your situation, peer programs are a safe space for sharing. The people in the program have gone through similar issues, and thus offer help and advice from experience. Talking to people who have walked in your shoes ensures there is no discrimination or judgment. this is the best way to help to rebuild your self-esteem. 

Chance to give back – through being part of a peer program, you can learn and become a supporter to new members. You can also take the knowledge and experience to start support programs in your community as part of giving back.

Find Peer Support

principles of support peer group

There are numerous group support programs. While you can try as many as possible until you find the right fit, the search can be far much easier when you have a list to work with. The best peer support organizations include:

Association for mental health wellness – this is mental health and awareness online peer support platform that gives you access to support groups for different mental health conditions. The goal of this organization is to empower people to pursue and maintain mental health as a way of enriching their lives.

WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) – this is a prevention and wellness support process for people who want to get well, stay well, and improve their life. Started by a group of people going through mental issues more than 20 years ago, the platform now works to help people going through all types of psychological or physical health issues and other life issues.

Men’s Group

If you need specialized group support catering to men, Mensgroup.com is the perfect platform for you. This is an online-based group that seeks to create a community of men around conversations that touch on men. It offers a comfortable and safe sharing space where men can share common experiences and learn from others who have walked the same path before. As a sharing community, it allows you to offer support to others too.

Conclusion

The idea that men should be strong and resilient without showing emotions is an outdated concept. The best opinions come from people who have gone through common experiences before as they can see the world from your perspective. Men need to have a safe space where they can share their achievements, fear, and dreams without fear of judgment. this is the only way to overcome and prevent serious mental illness. Mensgroup.com is a peer support platform where men can discuss, laugh, and network to better their lives as they learn through shared experiences.

*Sources:
1. What does a peer support worker do?
2. Why is peer support important?
3. How do you become a peer support?
4. Science Behind Peer Support
5. ASSESSMENT OF INNOVATIVE MODELS OF PEER SUPPORT SERVICES
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