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The ReDCo Group is pleased to announce that 2 Peer Support Specialists from the Schuylkill Region recently completed a special forensic training that qualifies them to work with prison inmates who are scheduled for release. Read on to learn more about Recovery and the role of the Peer Support Specialist.
Peer Support Specialists:
Supporting Recovery
The Recovery Model that has gained wide-spread acceptance in the behavioral health field is based on empowerment. This model starts with the consumer and their right to choose their own path. It focuses on the development of new meaning and purpose in life as an individual is encouraged to grow beyond the problems that brought them into treatment.
The traditional Medical Model of mental health treatment is symptom/treatment based; the guiding principles are often focused on stabilization, maintenance, and relapse prevention.
Contrast this with the newer Recovery Model where the emphasis is on health and wellness rather than finding "answers" and quick fixes. Consumers already know their symptoms. If an individual has been in treatment, they've learned what their triggers are and how to handle them. What needs to be taught is ways of coping with a mental illness that are effective and help the consumer become part of the fabric of the community.
A holistic approach to service planning is used in Recovery. Service plans need to incorporate all the choices available to the consumer with the information needed to clarify these options and make decisions. In Recovery, treatment becomes a partnership with the consumer and is based on the strengths, needs, preferences, and desires of the consumer.
Decision-making is viewed as a shared responsibility with the consumer. It is "hope, choices, and opportunity," according to a Peer Support Specialist working with the ReDCo Group who emphasizes with consumers that "there is no end result... it's all about the journey."
This recovery journey involves change — change in attitude, values, skills, and goals. Change not only for the consumer, but also for the provider staff. The provider learns to see the consumer as more than their diagnosis when the approach to treatment is respectful and collaborative. In Recovery, relationships are formed that are affirming, supportive, and encouraging.
A Peer Support Specialist can be of great benefit to the consumer in the Recovery Model. Peer Support Specialists are individuals who are self-identified as having a mental illness. They have completed training through a certification process with the PA Department of Public Welfare and are taught how to help their peers identify and achieve specific self-determined goals. The service must be recommended by a physician and is incorporated in a person's treatment plan. The consumer must be 18 year of age or older and have a severe and persistent mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders.
In recovery, working with someone who knows what you are experiencing can be very meaningful. Peer Support Services offer positive, personal interaction with a relatable individual who is "walking the walk" and modeling the principles of the Recovery Model.
The Peer Support Specialist shares with the consumer their knowledge of available services in the area and teaches them how to effectively communicate with service providers. They teach decision-making skills and how to make use of "natural" and informal supports, they offer alternatives to more restrictive means of coping with symptoms, and they help avert psychiatric hospitalizations.
The ReDCo Group has 6 Peer Support Specialists — 3 in the Schuylkill Region and 3 in the Pocono Region. (The ReDCo Group was the first provider in both areas to be approved for Peer Support Services.) They are each assigned a caseload and meet for supervision on a regular basis. The energy these 6 employees bring to their work is contagious. Consumers cannot help but feel strengthened by their caring concern.
Recently, a consumer expressed severe anxiety over her living arrangements. She was very unhappy with the location and accessibility of her apartment but was unsure of what to do about the situation. A Peer Support Specialist was able to suggest some options to consider and assured the consumer that they would help her work the problem through. As they made plans to get together, the relief the consumer experienced was obvious.
A Peer Support Specialist becomes a friend to the consumer — one who knows where they are coming from because they've been there too. They are ready and able to help guide the consumer through difficult times and are there to celebrate the successes.
Most importantly, the Peer Support Specialist helps the consumer find — and use — their voice so they can become their own advocate. They offer the consumer the comfort of knowing that they are not alone — and they offer hope for a satisfying and meaningful future.