Thursday, July 9, 2020

Comments by emattison

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  • Our organization is, I believe, the largest employer of peer support workers in Connecticut. We have a slightly different take on how mental health agencies can become truly recovery oriented as well as supportive of the growth and creativity of staff members who disclose and use their recovery experiences in their work. We think that the key to change is for an agency to employ large numbers of people in recovery so that their experience is no longer seen as other, but simply as ordinary. (We are the employers of the peer worker and place them in agencies that pay us an hourly rate for their time.) One agency that has invited large numbers of our peer staff into it over the last 5 years, has seen the amount of stigma drastically diminish. Peer staff speak up regularly in meetings and talk about the relevance of their experience to the work being done now. Our training includes a 6 week internship at an agency together with weekly meeting to digest what the interns have seen and the recovery support they have begun to offer.

    Our other central principle is patience. Recovery is not a half-hour TV drama. It takes a lot of relationship to see change in someone who is struggling to find a way to lead a fuller life. We focus a lot on self-care and the avoidance of burnout. We have frequently peer meetings for mutual support and thinking together about problems.

    Does it always work? Of course not. Peer support is hard work and not everybody can do it. Service users have the same emotional limitations as all other humans, and sometimes decide that the struggle is too difficult. We are always trying to learn from others’ efforts whether they agree with us or not.