The Kim Foundation Newsletter: A supportive resource and compassionate voice for lives touched by mental illness.

Intentional Peer Support Model

Peer support has become a recognized and valued tool in promoting resiliency, recovery, and wellness in mental health. Recognizing the value of several different models or types of peer support programs available in the United States, Nebraska selected the "Intentional Peer Support Model" via a consumer selection committee in 2009. The Intentional Peer Support Model was authored by Shery Mead and over 100 people in Nebraska have been trained in this model. Because we’ve received questions about Intentional Peer Support (IPS) and how it works, The Kim Foundation asked the Administrator for the Office of Consumer Affairs in Nebraska’s Division of Behavioral Health, Carol Coussons de Reyes, to share with us her thoughts concerning Intentional Peer Support, including history, use, and purpose. Thank you, Carol, we appreciate your response!

For many of us, personal relationships are confusing for two reasons: one, traumatic experience and two, interactions with behavioral health systems. At least 70% of adults in the US have had some traumatic experience*. Examples of trauma are acts of violence, sexual abuse, grief and loss, neglect, war, etc. For some, experiences with the behavioral health system itself can result in trauma or re-traumatization. Among some trauma survivors, relationships can become frightening to a point that all a person can see is their own personal story when interacting with others. Understanding other people have needs can be quite foreign. Simple healthy relationship concepts, like boundaries, may be missing from our lives.

In behavioral health systems, we encounter people that are so willing to solve our problems we may forget we can solve them ourselves- we become dependent on systems. Think about the hospital: someone tells you where to eat, when to eat, when to brush your teeth, when to go to group, when to take your medicine. The foundation is not one built on making choices.

The crux of the work of IPS is focused on the four tasks or principles: Connection, Worldview, Mutuality, and Moving Towards (Shery Mead Consulting, 2010). These four tasks are honed in a process called co-supervision, where an individual practices the skills with peers. With these acquired skills, we move towards relationships within the community and we learn to make our own choices.”

Rather than ‘what is wrong’, the focus shifts to creating new ways of healing so an individual deliberately and intentionally choses to focus on ‘what is right for my healing.’ Shery Mead stated “Peer support is a culture of healing. As people practice new ways of being together through even the most difficult times, possibilities for breaking old patterns and creating new opportunities are endless.”

*“How to Manage Trauma”, National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, 2012

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