The easiest thing for a peer specialist to do would be to become one with our peers. But unfortunately, that would be wrong.We have take steps to become professionals. In my case, I was a professional before I became a peer specialist. But before I go further into this blog, I should back up and explain that peer specialists are people who identify themselves as having lived experiences coping with a mental illness.
Before we became workers, we developed our coping skills in many different areas. We me might have survived any number of issues such as bankruptcy, spousal abuse, substance abuse and vehicle repossession. Our children may be in the foster care system or being raised by relatives or the other spouse. To say nothing of the trauma many of us have experienced.
The consumers I have met often present their best possible selves to me because they want my approval. There are strong incentives for them to do so, because everything gets scrutinized endlessly. After I record my notes someone else will review them and there is a process that includes supervision and quality control. Because of that I withhold my personal judgment as much as possible. I’m not going to tell someone that I believe they’re lying. Because the truth will come out in the end. Drug dealers don’t just beat up people and take their money for fun.So, you might as well admit that you were using instead of using all of those excuses.
I’m not going to judge you for doing so but I will appreciate your honesty. What happens to you afterwards is a matter of professional judgment. Do consumers have the right to get high and sell their belongings? Should they b e allowed to live in crack houses? Should someone else have the right to tell them what to do? Is this a just system? These are all valid questions. They help explain why peer support is a profession, not a friendship. I am not there to coddle you when you believe that the system is mistreating you. But I am there to encourage your recovery. As we grow, we will understand the difference.