Strengthening the Peer Support Workforce
Peer support was recognized by a few pioneer professionals as early as the 1930s, such as neuropsychiatrist Abraham Low and psychologist Albert Bandura. Only recently has the field of mental health care begun to use the benefits of peer support through the implementation of a peer specialist workforce. Much change needs to occur to make the full shift toward a comprehensive wellness-based recovery system of support. Jeanie Whitecraft, Copeland Center Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator and national expert on implementation of recovery and peer-support programs states:
“We have created the tools and training to prepare peers for the workforce but I believe you should start off as you intend to go… through my experience in developing the Friends Connection program at the time of the Philadelphia State hospital closing, I learned that you can’t just put peers out into the community with providers without the provider workforce having a clear understanding of what the peer program is all about and the effects and benefits, otherwise its just fluff. I was very intent on having created a model program of peer support, I learned what it takes to create a structure, to follow a structure and yet support people in being able to have creativity.”
The value of expanding and strengthening peer support practices in the mental health system and removing barriers to implementation is as much of a social justice issue as it is just plain practical. The Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery’s team of peer educators with its new peer developed curricula seek to transform a system of mental health treatment to one which focuses on support through wellness recovery peer based practices.