Peer Support in Addiction Recovery

Some of the earliest signs of organization of Peer Support efforts were among Native Americans struggling with substance abuse in the 1770s. However, formalized Peer Support really took hold with the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. Each person, from the one who is just 24 hours sober to the one who is clean 24 years, is seen as bringing value to the conversation, and it is fully peer run. There are no professionals acting within their professional roles within the halls of 12 step meetings. It is this level of mutuality and sharing of experiential knowledge that is one of the hallmarks of Peer Support.*

Historically, the substance use disorders and recovery field led the way in recognizing the importance of Peer Support Services for a person seeking to come to terms with a life-changing condition. Utilization of Peer Support is , by now, a common practice in many fields. In the medical world of today, for example, there is scarcely a specialty where Peer Support is not recognized as a valuable adjust to professional medical and social interventions. Improved outcomes are particularly notable when Peer Support Services are provided to people with chronic conditions that require long-term self-management.

Peer Recovery Support Services can fill a need long recognized by treatment providers for services to support recovery after an individual leaves a treatment program. In addition, Peer Recovery Support Services hold promise as a vital link between systems that treat substance use disorders in a clinical setting and the larger communities in which seeking to achieve and sustain recovery live. Using a non-medical model in which social support services are provided by Peer Support Specialist who have experienced a substance use challenge and recovery, these services extend the continuum of care by facilitating entry into treatment, providing  social support services during treatment , and providing a post treatment safety net to those who are seeking to sustain treatment gains.

These services are proving to be vary adaptable , operating within diverse populations, stages of recovery, and pathways of recovery, service settings, and organizational contexts. Notably, they build on resources that already exist in every community, including diverse communities of recovering people who wish to be of service. By serving as role models for recovery, providing mentoring and coaching, connecting people to needed services and community support, and helping in the process of establishing a new social networks supportive of recovery, peer leaders make recovery a presence in their communities and send a message of hope fulfilled.**

* Reference: National Council of Behavioral Health-The Providers Handbook on Developing & Implementing Peer Roles by Lynn Legere of Lynn Legere Consulting with contributions from the Western Mass Peer Network & Sera Davidow of the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community.

**Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, What are Peer Recovery Support Services? ( HHS Publication No.(SMA) 09-4454. Rockville,MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,US. Department of Health and Human Services,2009

Recovery is possible for every individual

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