From Guest Blogger, Jude Swanson, Peer Support Worker and one of the author’s of Evening the Frayed Edges.
Reflections on Peer Support: Three Elements that Make a Difference
I feel a lot of peer support work is related to the saying: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. In terms of my experiences about peer support work, I feel three elements stand out for me. Listening is vital, having a strengths based approach and sharing your faith in your Peer. I have found these elements helped in my role as a peer support worker and I hope these elements have helped my Peers in their recovery.
Most of my work as a peer support worker is done outside of an office, out in the community. So I find it is very easy for me to listen closely to what my Peer is saying. To me the skill of listening is probably what helps your Peer build trust, respect and faith in your abilities as a peer support worker. Listening is not only respectful but by listening you gain valuable input from your Peer.
Having a strengths based approach is simply recognizing various strengths your Peer has. There is no question there are problems/challenges too but the Peers strengths can be an important part of overcoming those problems/challenges. Often Peers may not even be aware of strengths they can use to help themselves.
Closely related to the strengths based approach, to me, is having faith in your Peer. I learned early on in my peer support career that sharing my faith in my Peer’s strengths, abilities and hope for the future, could help my Peer move motivational mountains for themselves. One Peer shared “You believed in me before I did but now we both do”. When my Peer shared that with me, I realized how important sharing faith and hope could be for my Peer.
Peer support work is not just listening, strengths based and sharing faith. However, I feel these three elements help me be an effective peer support worker.