Peer Support Relationships: Tips for Ending Well

From the Vancouver Mental Health Services Peer Support Training Class of 2012-13

One of the things instructors talked about in this year’s peer support training was the importance of “beginning with the end in mind”: explaining at the start of a peer support relationship what the role of the Peer Support Worker is and that in our system peer support is centered around a goal and often ends when the goal is attained.

With that in mind, students came up with the following tips for ending well. We liked them so much we thought we’d share them here:

Tips

  • Review achievements and focus on them
  • Prepare people ahead of time (ie. we have 1 month left)
  • Let your peer know you are proud of them and give them examples of how they’ve grown
  • Leave them with a sense of belief in themselves
  • Ask: how did you find peer support services? Was it helpful? Were there things that could be improved?
  • Acknowledge and validate feelings including loss. Encourage your peer to talk to their other supports.
  • Look at universal needs such as authenticity, compassion and connection. We all need these things, but it doesn’t equate to needing it from one specific person.
  • Point out your peer’s strengths and the other relationships and skills they’ve developed.
  • Encourage them.
  • Let them know they’ve had an impact on your life and you’ll miss them.
  • Thank them. “I’ve gotten a lot out of this relationship as well”.
  • Point out achievement of the goal is their achievement, not yours, and they can continue without you.

Something to think about:

With the above tips in mind and with you as the Peer Support Worker, how would you approach the following scenario:

A couple of months ago, your peer, Bob, moved to a new neighbourhood and you were asked to help him explore it and learn what it has to offer. Bob has a good grasp of the place now, the goal seems to be achieved and you’ve been asked to wrap up with Bob so you can support a new peer. You’re not sure how this is going to feel for Bob. He’s told you a few times how much he looks forward to you coming by. How will you approach this?

Feel free to leave your ideas for this scenario in “comments”.

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3 responses to “Peer Support Relationships: Tips for Ending Well

  1. The goal should never be the centre of the peer relationship but the focus. The relationship between psw and client, if it is a good one, will have much more going on because of the role modelling that occurs as well as the holistic and supportive nature of peer support work. The client is not a life support for a goal. Rather through the goal as a practical and grounding focus the client and the peer support worker are walking together on a journey towards wellness. This does not create the risk of dependency as long as the client is being encouraged throughout the relationship to live independently, to form positive social connections apart from the psw and as long as the client is made to know from the beginning that this is a time limited relationship with professional boundaries and continuity of care within the mental health system. When a client suggests that we could be friends I always advise him or her that friendship involves a mutual exchange in which both individuals have to cope with each other’s baggage and that I would never want to inflict this on a client.
    With this holistic approach I have often worked very successfully on a series of goals with my clients and they have always come to enjoy a better quality of life by the end of our sessions without feelings of dependence towards me. The client comes first, then the goal. We must never lose or forget the humanity and the relational value of this work or it risks becoming sterile and ineffective.

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