Peer support therapy is a form of therapy used for recovery from mental illnesses and substance use disorders (SUD). More and more communities and states are being encouraged to integrate peer support into their community-based mental health treatment and management programs and substance abuse treatment services. This is because peer support services are based on compassion and empowerment to help support and enthuse recovery.

Peer workers are identified as individuals in recovery from SUDs, mental illnesses or both. These people own diverse peer support competencies. In recent years, a vast majority of behavioral health services have implemented peer support services. Interestingly, the emergency service environments and criminal justice systems are also making use of peer support therapy increasingly.

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Role of peer support in mental health treatment

Peer support in mental health treatment programs can be integrated in the form of structured group therapies, ranging from formal to casual everyday interactions. This type of therapy offers an array of benefits which can lead to insightful transformations. Some of these benefits include:

  • Breaking isolation – Mental illnesses can be profoundly isolating. According to research, people grappling with mental illnesses can benefit greatly from social support as it can improvise their treatment outcomes, self-esteem, self-care skills, and overall quality of life. Being surrounded by peers battling similar situations can help nurture connections and social interactions, helping a person come out of their isolated state and exposing them to social experiences. This can be truly healing, fostering a sense of fellowship and belongingness with people who understand what one has or is going through.
  • Destigmatizing shame – Oftentimes, the stigma surrounding mental illnesses pushes a person into isolation, deeply damaging their confidence and self-esteem. Peer support helps a person realize that they are not alone and rather, their experiences and feelings are shared with others also navigating through a similar journey. People comprising the peer support group understand, normalize, and validate the feelings of a person struggling with a mental health disorder and this can greatly help in disengaging them from the associated stigma and walking them on a path of self-acceptance.
  • Discovering self-expression – People living with depression, psychosis, or trauma may feel disoriented, finding it difficult to figure what is happening to them and challenging to share their turbulent experiences with others. People usually tend to go in a shell due to the associated stigma and isolation. However, in peer-based support settings, people express themselves and this encourages those in their shells to become highly aware of their own needs and feelings. Once they recognize their own feelings, they start learning to put words to them and expressing themselves.
  • Practicing novel skills – A gamut of behavioral and emotional disturbances is caused by mental health disorders greatly affecting how people relate to themselves and to their environments. By itself, mental health recovery is not only a psychological process, but a process of harnessing new skills that help a person to be with themselves and align with the world in a healthier way. Developing new skills necessitates a safe environment, practice, and constant encouragement which is readily provided by a peer support group. These new skills could be regulating one’s emotions, discarding negative thought processes, coping with conflicts, engaging in meaningful interactions with others, and so on.

Role of peer support in substance abuse treatment

Recovering from SUDs is a bit difficult. However, the constant support of a mentor or a coach who has been there and lived through similar challenges can be helpful to those contemplating walking on a path of recovery. This is especially critical during the initial 12-18 months of recovery as this is the most vulnerable time.

Individuals comprising a peer support group are different from counselors, sponsors, medical providers, clergy, and even therapists. These are wise role models, advocates, allies, motivators, and educators.

Peer support groups can help incorporate a lot of advantages and learning to a substance abuse treatment program. These include:

  • Experience with substance use disorder and recovery – A person belonging to a peer group support has lived through substance abuse and recovery. This experience helps them to better understand and relate to the individual on a similar journey. A peer support group can help a person with an SUD learn how to face the myriad challenges one faces on the path to recovery.
  • Timely intervention and relapse prevention – Peer support group members are adept at preventing relapses as they are good at identifying red flags. This allows them to provide support or arrange a timely intervention for a person before he/she resumes using the substance of abuse.
  • Robust training and certification – Individuals belonging to peer support groups undergo a robust training and certification process. They should be in recovery for at least a period of two years. They should have multiple hours of experience of extending support to others under supervision and must have acquired training on HIV, co-occurring disorders, and peer recovery.
  • Extending help to primary support and family members – Another benefit of using peer support therapy is that members of these groups offer meaningful direction and continuum of care to the primary support and family members of those in recovery. These peer support members greatly help the family members learn how to deal with the person in recovery and what to do to help them stay sober. In addition, individuals in recovery who do not have a primary support or direct contact with their family members might also benefit hugely from peer support groups.

Peer support and Invictus Health Group

The Invictus Health Group is associated with numerous behavioral health centers in Southern California that offer services for the treatment of mental health disorders and addiction. These service providers are staffed with skilled mental health professionals and addiction specialists who conduct a thorough evaluation of each patient at the time of admission. Based on these initial assessments, a personalized treatment plan is created that conforms to the individual needs of a patient. Alongside CBT, DBT, one-on-one therapy, we also have a team of people who offer support through peer support groups. This helps the patient ensure that they are not alone and that it is possible to achieve complete recovery by gaining knowledge through others experiences and walking their paths as well.

If you or a loved one is looking for reliable mental health and addiction treatment facilities, get in touch with the Invictus Health Group. Our team of experts will offer you all the required assistance and connect you with the most suitable behavioral health center. Call our 24/7 treatment helpline (866) 548-0190 or chat online with our counselor for more information about the various treatment modalities offered at our network facilities.

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