Peer support through fresh eyes
Our Network Officer Holly has been working with the staff team at SPIRIT Advocacy. As an organisation they explored their understanding of peer support to enhance the delivery of three new peer support groups.
In this guest blog Sue Lyons, Service Manager at the organisation, tells us more.
A little bit about us
SPIRIT Advocacy is a member-led collective advocacy organisation. We work with and represent people living with mental illness and learning disability across the Highlands. Our work involves challenging stigma and campaigning for better rights, treatment and services. Our main projects are People First Highland, HUG (Action for Mental Health) and SPEAK.
Early in 2021 we secured some funding to set up three peer support groups. This was a significant departure from SPIRIT’s core business. Fortunately, all our staff had previous experience of peer support. Some had received training in peer support, others had set up and run peer support groups. I was keen that we looked at how we would facilitate these groups with fresh eyes. As an organisation we wanted to develop an up-to-date perspective of peer support.
Let’s do Peer2Peer is a set of resources from the Scottish Recovery Network. They provide a range of ways for us to explore our understanding of peer support. I felt that an external facilitator, alongside these resources, would bring benefit to the process. A person from out with the team would encourage us to think about our organisational understanding of peer support. They would challenge and explore our existing beliefs and behaviours. I was delighted when Holly, from Scottish Recovery Network, agreed to deliver a series of sessions using the Peer2Peer framework.
What we did
Holly and I discussed which Peer2Peer modules would best help us to achieve our learning objectives. We chose Peer Support in Mental Health Recovery as an introduction. This reminded us of the role peer support plays whilst recognising our existing knowledge and experience.
Mutuality in the Peer Relationship and Understanding power in the Peer Relationship brought our understanding up-to-date. As did Peer values and Trauma informed Peer Support. These sessions led to interesting conversations and new insights for the team.
The other sessions included Sharing our Experiences, Role Tension and Boundaries and Self Care. These sessions helped us all to examine how we felt about sharing our own lived experience. We examined how to look after ourselves and set healthy boundaries. This was relevant to our roles as facilitators and within the peer support groups themselves.
The experience and outcomes
Our experience was excellent. Holly created a space which recognised and valued our existing skills and experience but still challenged us. We explored new understandings. We worked together in a supportive way to consider how best to develop our peer support networks.
Scottish Recovery Network’s Let’s do Peer2Peer resources have been a really helpful development tool for SPIRIT and our groups. We are very grateful for the help that we had from Holly and the wider team.
As we begin to open up to face to face meetings we will be delivering Peer2Peer with our groups. We can’t wait.
On working with SPIRIT Advocacy, Holly said:
Working with Sue on this development opportunity felt like a really meaningful way to create something that would be useful and enjoyable for the team at SPIRIT Advocacy. It was a real pleasure to facilitate the sessions and work with the team as they developed their individual and collective knowledge and skills around peer support.
The Let’s do Peer2Peer resources are free to access. They aim to develop people’s skills and knowledge in peer support through an experiential learning opportunity. The resources are flexible and adaptable and can be ordered from: firstname.lastname@example.org or download from this website