What is peer support?
“…where an individual(s) who identifies themselves as having a specific problem/need and have received support to address the problem/need delivers services for the primary purpose of helping others with similar problems or needs. “
Peer support offers social, practical and emotional support. By definition, it must be voluntary, run and directed by consumers (peer supporters) in an informal setting, and offering flexibility and a non-medical approach. Beliefs, styles and values include:
- The peer principle – finding affiliation with someone going through similar life experiences
- The helper principle – the notion that helping someone else is also self-healing
- Empowerment – finding hope and believing recovery is possible, taking personal responsibility for making it happen
- Advocacy – being able to self-advocate e.g. choice and decision-making opportunities, skill development, confidence-building, developing awareness
Support is provided by someone further along their ‘recovery journey’ to someone less far along, whilst building and maintaining a non-professional relationship. When a peer supporter shares their own stories, they are not telling the other person what to do, but are offering their own critical learning experience. This can expose people to a potentially larger story, and can help them consider other ways of thinking about what’s happening and different options for approaching it. The most well-known peer support organisation is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which can be found in over 150 countries.
For more information, see our peer support handout.