Canadian Medical Association

In its guidelines on peer support, the Mental Health Commission of Canada defines it as “a supportive relationship between people who have a lived experience in common.” It involves building on that shared experience to understand a peer’s situation empathetically and is particularly important during times of stress, trauma or uncertainty.

Peer support is not a clinical treatment based on psychiatric models and does not involve diagnosis.

How peer support is delivered

  • Through one-on-one conversations or in group settings
  • Informally (by peers who have not been formally trained) or formally (by individuals trained to provide this type of support) 
  • Confidentially

Effective peer supporters: 

  • Forge authentic connections that foster hope for recovery. 
  • Empathize with another person’s situation through a common experience of emotional and psychological pain — and show that the pain can be overcome.
  • Listen to the other person, validate the other person’s experiences and share relevant stories from their own journey to wellness, but never direct the other person’s path. 
  • Offer non-judgmental support and share coping strategies, information and resources.

The goals of peer support are to:

  • Help people discover and build on coping strategies that work for them.
  • Promote a broader sense of community and a positive, supportive training and practice culture.
  • Help people overcome challenges and manage wellness.
  • Complement clinical approaches. 

Peer support leads to positive outcomes: 

The Centre for Mental Health and Addictions says peer support…

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Improves coping and self-management skills

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Builds stronger social networks

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Reduces isolation, symptoms, substance use, intensive service use, hospitalizations

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Holds people accountable to their own recovery goals

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Fosters the values of hope, empowerment, self-determination and mutuality, and the belief that everyone can recover from stressful issues

Concepts related to peer support: 

Mentorship: While peer support happens between equals, mentorship involves an experienced person providing guidance, support and encouragement to a less experienced person.

Physician coaching: Life and business coaches can help physicians achieve clarity of purpose, focus, creativity, productivity and work-life balance. An outside perspective can help them objectively reflect on their lives and goals, and on what’s needed to make and maintain critical changes.

Counselling/psychotherapy: Psychologists and psychotherapists provide clinical information on self-help strategies, while peers work together to help each other find strategies that work.

Topics

Peer support Policies, standards and best practices

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