Kathryn Thompson: peer support and me
19th February 2020
Kathryn Thompson, a Peer Recovery Worker in Dundee tells us what peer support means to her.
I used to work as an engineer for a manufacturing company until I developed my own mental health difficulties in my mid-twenties. Since then I have worked in a number of support, development and managerial roles in the third sector. I am deeply passionate about recovery and peer support, having benefited from experiencing peer support informally in my own recovery journey.
There is so much potential in people to heal from the experiences we have had, and use that experience in a meaningful way to encourage others to believe that recovery is possible. Peer Support to me means;
There are so many people out there who have suffered significant barriers and loss due to their mental illness, myself included. However I believe that in amongst our lived experience, we have skills and strengths that can be harnessed to not only help ourselves, but also others.
Compassion, hope, empathy and acceptance are so important to the process of healing from traumatic experiences and something I value as highly as medications and therapies. In this day and age, where there is a recognised shortage of people coming in to traditional roles such as Doctors, Nurses, Allied Health Professionals and Social Workers, there is a real opportunity to develop a workforce through modern apprenticeships and vocational learning. This would support the current systems and also enhance employability for those that want it.
I have been working in a formal role as a Peer Recovery Worker for 3.5 years. The difference between peer working and other professions, where there is a clear educational base and development structure, has been surprising. Having lived experience in a formal role isn’t enough for safe & effective practice.
Peer Support is rooted in effective communication, understanding the use of power in relationships, person centred care, strengths based practice and how to help people see strengths in themselves, collaboration and negotiation, understanding trauma and how to work in a skilled way with people and also having good self awareness and understanding of our own journey and its meaning. That takes real skill to do well.
We need learning & development opportunities and career progression. We need peers in leadership roles, educating, developing, and working collaboratively to enhance the traditional approaches to recovery in mental health. It takes courage to speak up and be counted.
Knowing that the person you are speaking to really understands how hard it can be to find the positives and the belief that change is possible is just so intensely moving at a human level. If I can’t find hope myself, knowing there is someone who is holding it for me, rooting for me, believing in me gives me the strength to carry on.
If you would like to contribute (written, filmed, audio, animation etc) to our Peer Support and Me series contact Christine Muir, Senior Communications Officer on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0141 240 7790 for more information.