People Not Professionals


From Aeon: “A question that is often posed is whether peer support is comparable to professional mental health services. Are the two approaches effectively the same, substitutes of each other, complementary or completely opposed? An answer can be found in the seminal paper ‘Peer Support: A Theoretical Perspective’ (2001) by Shery Mead, David Hilton and Laurie Curtis, where they define peer support as ‘a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful.’ According to the authors, one of peer support’s defining features is that it is not based on ‘psychiatric models and diagnostic criteria’. Instead, peer support is about ‘understanding another’s situation empathically through the shared experience of emotional and psychological pain.’

In other words, the peer support model’s defining feature is that it is conceptually and practically separate from formal mental health care, which is conventionally provided by qualified clinical professionals. Peer support departs from the traditional relationship of the professional and the patient. This relationship is inherently mediated by an institutionalised power dynamic that determines what kind of support is provided to a person in distress. In this dynamic, the professional as an expert is presumed to ‘know better’, while the patient is expected to be a ‘passive recipient’ of the professional’s assessment of what is in the ‘best interests’ of the patient. Peer support inverts this very dynamic and replaces it with a relationship of two equally positioned individuals, founded on mutual respect, reciprocity and attunement of their lived experiences.

Peer support draws especially from the power of sharing lived experiences. It offers a relatable and lived exemplar of the unique experience of living and coping with multiple sources of stress in one’s life – something that formal mental health professionals embedded in the expert-patient dyad are often unable to provide therapeutically.

In addition, peer support provides a cathartic space for refuge that transcends the constraints of expert-delivered formal services in favour of a more equitable relationship wherein, through the mutual sharing of one’s pain or life journeys, one can identify and feel connected with the other’s experiences. The relational nature of emotional adversity requires reparative relationships to mend the psychological damage caused by those very fractured relationships (personal and social) in the past and present. Thus, for the person receiving support, a peer may also serve as an inspirational figure; to identify with their journey can be an antidote to the loneliness and isolation one experiences while in distress.”

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  1. Peer Specialist brings much to the table; we value sharing an authentic experience of recovery. Such as “I was on social security disability income and this is what it was like going back to work. (or) There was no place to call home after leaving detox and this is how I found a safe place to live (and) It was hard to get to appointments with doctors and wait for my prescription to be filled but because of my experience I started to think it was important.
    It is interesting to read about Peer Support. One must be safe to write about Peer Support. If you’re working in a bureaucracy such as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and you are not wearing rose colored glasses, then you need to be careful with criticism. Especially if you are in fact a Peer Specialist; and working on the front lines, and your supervisor on the one hand has ‘lived experience’ and on the other hand is a member of this bureaucracy. A wise friend said “A bureaucracy has no soul”. I agree.
    Recovery is soulful work. For me it is defined by living a life based on honesty. Such as “My deeds are my closest companions – I am the beneficiary of my deeds – My deeds are the ground on which I stand”. This statement dose not fit in with some bureaucracies.

    And sometimes neither do I.

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  2. Like care for people suffering imputed/real mental issues, and violence seems to approach a common sense approach to caring for family and community.

    Being human, particularly with experience in the kind of suffering, i.e. a previous sufferer, is what reasonably is being proposed for improving the well being and outcomes of new, particularly unaddressed sufferers.

    I can’t shake the conclusion that clinical psychology and psychiatrical research has not improved things. To say the least. The relevant minority tendency is going “backwards” to common sense, morality, religion, now called: Peer support.

    On better news, the mexican Supreme Court ruled 3 days ago that “care” is a right, and me concluding, not an individual obligation. And it extends the corresponding obligation to that right not to single individuals, family included, but widerly: to society.

    So, it remains to see how that is implemented, in a way that does not lead to forced state imposed care. But, care for people with disabilities has been ruled by said court as necessarily voluntary, otherwise unconstitutional and therefore illegal.


    After all, my mind residing, by definition, being a model not a real thing, in someone elses mind, is more in your mind than mine. Quacks care for yourselves and leave me alone!!!. It’s your right not mine! And certainly it is NOT MY INDIVIDUAL OLBIGATION!. Ceteris paribus…

    You Quacks!. You’ve been warned!.

    Hahaha, that sounded great in my mind. 🙂

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  3. Yes; I agree freedom of choice is dear to each person. Right now in Lewiston Maine there is an active shooter who has shot twenty two innocent people. Does freedom from mental health care and the right to own a gun ever intersect? As a society; it is reasonable to prevent people whose state of mind is thinking shooting people is a solution to a social problem from buying guns. Even though people suffer from emotional distress and therefore have a billable condition using the DSM are more likely to assault than assault another person I agree with legislation to investigate gun buyers. Some people leave prison with symptoms of PTSD and should be in counseling if they feel like buying a gun. Just an opinion. As a Peer Specialist I have received a death threat from an un-housed person I tried to support.

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  4. We need to talk about guns and the weapons industry and the other systems thst intersect with the great mess of now and many lives lost too many.
    First it is an American crisis.Second it has a before and after timeline some say 2004 but I would say earlier.
    The playbooks for pharma weapons and fossil fuel along with tobbacco use very similar playbooks.
    We also have folks who exploit families and surviviors for celebrity, fame , and profit. Though many do not seem to be seen as non rational or a danger to self and others.
    Storage of guns is an issue besides ownership. There is no systemic framework of public health and community education like an adult Safety Town. One theoretically use drivers liscence bureaus for everything Gun related but no.
    Lots of hard hard abusive pasts for most all of the mass murdered and shooters. This has been well known for many many decades and now much of support systems in this and other countries is much worse then it was and always some good or great stuff and then it de evolves.
    Moral injury is a concept used more for veterans than others but unless and until our country and others look deep into historical and intergenerational trauma caused by oppression of all types and tropes and the use of decedent and caring tools with multiple voices weighing in we will continue to de evolve. And I also would throw in the environment and health conditions and injuries that also play a role. Traumatic Brain Injury , lead poisoning, our soil, our water, our air might be a factor.
    AndI think we have a lot of excellent information around and survivor s voices so a true and lasting change may be possible but very easy for systems who are threatened to use the old divide and conquer strategy or fear or whatever.
    Nothing will ever be perfect and always outrages but if more coukd work together and use team and community concepts with art and all its forms and break down fear and allow people the common decency to be who they are and create frameworks so if crisis comes to your door which it always well there is some dignified plan or plans to help. Seeing the whole person and having time to listen some first steps.

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