Peers as Professionals

This is Peers as Professionals or How to have Workplace Success. This mini e-learning is brought to you by the Café TA Center

1.2 Introduction

You want to be a great and valued employee, you want to be professional in your role and be taken seriously whether you are paid or volunteer; be it as a Peer Support Specialist, on a committee, or a board member.

These modules are designed to support you to be the most professional that you can be. We consider a Peer Support Specialist to be a professional at the same level and value of other professionals, e.g. Social Workers, Psychiatrists, Occupational Therapists, Psychologists, etc.. The education, knowledge, skill set and practice of Peer Support Specialists is simply different. If you are acting in a voluntary capacity on a committee representing the Peer Support Professional point of view, you are a professional in your field of expertise, and as such, an equal and valued member of that committee.

1.3 Modules

To gain and be valued as a professional you must act professionally at all times.

These modules have been created to provide you with the foundation to be the professional you are. The training has been designed so that you can pick and choose the modules that pertain most to you in your current role; paid or volunteer Peer Support Specialist, volunteer committee members, peers supervising peers.

You can click on the modules that pertain to your role. You are welcome to look at everything and we set it up so there is no need to go through all the modules to get what you need for your role.

1.4 Being a Valued Employee

When it comes to being a Peer Support Specialist, like all professionals, there must be a foundation on which to build. This module is about workplace ethics, boundaries or as we like to think of them; managing complex relationships, how to be a great employee including checking your own biases and self-care. This is the foundation for workplace success.

1.5 Build a Foundation

Let's build the foundation:
The cornerstone of your role is ethics and managing the complex relationships you are involved in. You may have heard people talk about boundaries, and we are not going to use that language. Instead of talking about boundaries, we want to talk about managing the complex relationships that are part of your profession as we feel that term more broadly describes what you deal with as a Peer Support Specialist.

1.6 Ethics

Let's start with discussing ethics. What do we mean by ethics?
Ethics are the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human or a particular group, culture, etc.

And the other term to be clear about is Code of Ethics which is a specific code that every profession has to guide best practices

1.7 Ethical Guidelines for Peer Support Professionals

We are going to cover this topic of ethics by incorporating the InterNational Association of Peer Supporters (INAPS) core ethical Guidelines for the Practice of Peer Support, ethical guidelines from different countries and various states in the United States.

When we talk about Peer Support Professionals , we are speaking about both paid and voluntary Peer Support Professionals. We are also using the terms Peer Support Specialists and Peer Support Professionals interchangeably throughout this presentation.

We are covering general guidelines, it is imperative to check with your employer and your certifying body for any specific code of ethics.

• Peer support is voluntary: Recovery is a personal choice. The most basic value of peer support is that people freely choose to receive support or not. Being coerced, forced or pressured is against the nature of genuine peer support. The voluntary nature of peer support makes it easier to build trust and connections with another.

• Peer Support Professionals are hopeful: Belief that recovery is possible brings hope to those feeling hopeless. Hope is the catalyst of recovery for many people. Peer Support Professionals demonstrate that recovery is real; they are the evidence that people can and do overcome the internal and external challenges that confront people with mental health, traumatic or substance use challenges. By authentically living recovery, Peer Support Professionals inspire real hope that recovery is possible for others.

• Peer Support Professionals are open minded: Being judged can be emotionally distressing and harmful. Peer Support Professionals “meet people where they are at” in their recovery experience even when the other person's beliefs, attitudes or ways of approaching recovery are far different from their own. Being nonjudgmental means holding others in unconditional positive regard, with an open mind, a compassionate heart and full acceptance of each person as a unique individual.

• Peer Support Professionals are empathetic



1.8 Ethical Guidelines for Peer Support Professionals

• Peer Support Professionals are respectful: When we use the term respectful it means each person is valued and seen as having something important and unique to contribute to the world. Peer Support Professionals treat people with kindness, warmth and dignity. Peer Support Professionals accept and are open to differences, encouraging people to share the gifts and strengths that come from human diversity. Peer Support Professionals honor and make room for everyone's ideas and opinions and believe every person is equally capable of contributing to the whole.

• Peer Support Professionals facilitate change: Peer Support Professionals treat people as human beings and remain alert to any practice (including the way people treat themselves) that is dehumanizing, demoralizing or degrading and will use their personal story and/or advocacy to be an agent for positive change.

• Peer Support Professionals are honest and direct: Honest communication moves beyond the fear of conflict or hurting other people to the ability to respectfully work together to resolve challenging issues with caring and compassion, including issues related to stigma, abuse, oppression, crisis or safety.

• Peer support is mutual and reciprocal : In a peer support relationship each person gives and receives in a fluid, constantly changing manner. This is very different from what most people experience in treatment programs, where people are seen as needing help and staff is seen as providing that help. In peer support relationships, each person has things to teach and learn. This is true whether you are a paid or volunteer peer supporter.



1.9 Ethical Guidelines for Peer Support Professionals

• Peer support is equally shared power: By definition, peers are equal. Sharing power in a peer support relationship means equal opportunity for each person to express ideas and opinions, offer choices and contribute. Each person speaks and listens to what is said. Abuse of power is avoided when peer support is a true collaboration.

• Peer recovery support is strengths-focused: Each person has skills, gifts and talents they can use to better their own life. Peer support focuses on what's strong, not what's wrong in another's life. Peer Support Professionals share their own experiences to encourage people to see the “silver lining” or the positive things they have gained through adversity. Through peer support, people get in touch with their strengths (the things they have going for them). They rediscover childhood dreams and long-lost passions that can be used to fuel recovery.

• Peer support is transparent: Transparency refers to setting expectations with each person about what can and cannot be offered in a peer support relationship, clarifying issues related to privacy and confidentiality.

• Peer support is emotionally and physically safe: Confidentiality is respected. The environment is ensured that it is physically safe for the peer and the peer supporter.





1.10 Ethical Guidelines for Peer Support Professionals

Peer Support Professionals are appropriate at all times: Interactions with a peer are appropriate (e.g., interactions are empowering and trustworthy and never sexually or romantically intimate).Peer support is not a friendship. You are there to provide a professional service. Peer support requires you being alert and engaged appropriately and therefore alcohol and drug use that would interfere with your role is refrained from. Additionally, peers do not engage in purchasing or using of alcohol or drugs with the people they serve.

Peer Support is non-clinical: Peers avoid talking about medical issues in any way except to share your own experience. When sharing your experience, make it clear that it's just your own experience, and other people may have a very different experience. Remember that each person is the expert in her or his own life.

Peer Support Professionals document as required: Not all Peer Support Professionals are required to document. There has always been a challenge in managing sharing power, mutuality and the need to document. If you are required to document, it must be complete and accurate. The best form of accurate documentation is collaborative note writing. We acknowledge, at times, documentation may be required to be in a deficit model for billing purposes, but you always deliver service in a strengths based model.

1.11 Ethical Guidelines for Peer Support Professionals

• Peer Support Professionals have a commitment to ongoing personal development and learn¬ing : Continual growth and development enhances your ability to provide the most effective support. This may include such things as taking advantage of trainings and webinars, staying up to date with current knowledge in the peer support movement and community resources.

• Peer support is person-driven: IT IS ABOUT SELF-DETERMINATION for the person you support: All people have a fundamental right to make decisions about things related to their lives. Peer Support Professionals inform people about options, provide information about choices and respect their decisions. Peer Support Professionals encourage people to move beyond their comfort zones, learn from their mistakes and grow from dependence on the system toward their chosen level of freedom and inclusion in the community of their choice.

It is all about self determination. This is a critical component of peer support.


1.12 Managing Complex Relationships

Let's now talk about managing complex relationships: some people refer to this as boundaries and we have chosen to use the term managing complex relationship because we feel it is a more comprehensive descriptive term.
A way to think about the term is more like what works and what doesn't work inside complex relationships. What we mean is what is acceptable inside the relationship between the person being supported and a Peer Support Specialist. This is not black and white, there are many variations of gray. It is about how to be thoughtful in evaluating different situations.

1.13 What Do YOU Do?

We want to start by looking at some possible real life situations that you may face in your role as a Peer Support Specialist.

What do you do if a person you are working with:
• Wants your personal cell phone number? Do you give it to them, or do you politely tell them you cannot give your personal cell phone number and they are welcome to talk to you when you are at work?

• Wants a hug? Do you hug them, or say that you don't feel comfortable doing that or it is against workplace policy?

• Asks for a cigarette? Do you give them one, or politely refuse?

• Always stands really close to you? Are you ok with this or do you let them stand close even though you are uncomfortable or politely ask them to step back or step back yourself?

1.14 Questions to ask yourself:

You (and everyone else) has different things you are comfortable with based on your history, your culture, family traditions, and experience with trauma and the behavioral health system. This is what creates the gray areas.

It is important to ask yourself the following questions when managing complex relationships as a way to guide your actions:

• Am I making this decision to ease my discomfort?
• Am I making this decision because I'm sure (without asking) it's best for the peer?
• Have I asked lots of questions and negotiated with the other person?
• Am I denying someone a chance to act responsibly or to grow into a healthy role?
• Am I saying “yes” or “no” because I can't decide what would be best?
• How might I be limiting my value to this person by my decision?
• How might I be limiting someone's growth by my decision?
• Is it something I can negotiate with the person using services?
• Who can I ask before I make my final decision?
• What are my biases? Are they influencing my decision?

We appreciate that managing complex relationship takes some practice- being able to say no to someone's request can be difficult for some of you. We have provided in our resource section a great example of how to do that in a respectful way.

1.15 Checking your Biases

Let's talk about checking your biases. By bias we mean prejudgment, prejudice or unspoken preferences that influence your behavior.
Let's be real, we all have biases. The temptation is to deny them, however, saying you have no biases would be like saying you are not a man or a woman.

1.16 Do You Prefer:

Think about it:
• Do you prefer kittens or puppies?
• Do you like red or green better?
• Do you prefer a beach vacation or a mountain vacation?
• Do you prefer being in hot temperatures or cold temperatures?
• Do you prefer a bath or a shower?
• Do you like sushi or prefer a hamburger?

Sometimes what you will find is that you are uncomfortable working with someone and it may come from simply not knowing about them or not understanding some circumstance or not having knowledge about that particular group and their customs. Or it could simply be that your background and beliefs don't agree with their particular lifestyle (e.g. someone who smokes, is promiscuous, is morbidly obese, disciplines their children by hitting, takes or doesn't take medication, does drugs, etc.)

1.17 Know Your Biases and

What are your personal biases?
You don't get to choose the people you work with so you need to acknowledge for yourself your personal biases and then leave them at the door when you work with people.

There may be a rare occurrence when you are unable to put your biases aside and work with some people, in which case, you must discuss it immediately with your supervisor. It doesn't make you a bad person, but before you do that, take a moment and put yourself in that other person's shoes. How would you feel if someone didn't want to work with you because of who you are or your history? It is important, as Peer Support Specialists, that you work past where you are comfortable. Remember, going past your own comfort was one of the things that allowed you to be in recovery. Living in your discomfort allows you to grow and learn, not only as Peer Support Specialists, but as a human being.

1.18 Being a Valued Employee

When you think about being a valuable employee, you have to consider what you want from your employer as well as what value you provide and contribute to the workplace.

Part of your value, as Peer Support Specialists, is being able to educate the rest of the team regarding true recovery oriented service delivery.

A note of caution- given many of you have been through the ‘system' that encouraged learned helplessness and not being responsible, there may be a tendency to have an unconscious sense of entitlement; (e.g. You don't have to come to work on time, you get more leave, someone will take care of x, someone will do my work for me, write my notes, etc., you don't have to do that because you are a peer). As a professional, you want to be aware of this and be able to move past it. To be respected and valued you don't want special treatment in your workplace because it reinforces the idea that ‘those people' (the Peer Support Specialist) can't really do the job.

1.19 Attributes of a Valued Employee

What are the attributes of a valued employee?
• Honest and does what is right even in the face of pressures and temptations: As an employee you represent a company. How you work and your interactions reflects directly on the employer. Honesty is also one of the ethical considerations of being a Peer Support Specialist, but it is not limited to working with the people you support, the team and other community partners, but also in relation to anything regarding your employer.

• Flexible: Within the bounds of staying true to peer support values, you are willing to take on what is needed to support the peer fully and get the job done.

• Reliable/Responsible: Showing up on time to work. It is doing what you say you will do, and if you are not able to, telling your supervisor as soon as possible. Understand your job responsibilities and at a minimum, meet those. When possible go above and beyond.

• Solution-Focused and Proactive: Sometimes when things get tough, you may have a tendency to complain and focus on the problem vs be solution focused. If things aren't working as well as they could, suggest solutions that might make a difference.

1.20 Attributes of a Valued Employee

• Self-disciplined: It is easy to get distracted, get caught up in office politics and gossip. Stay focused and complete the job at hand.

• Enhance and improve your skills: Continually strive to increase your knowledge and skill set. Look for opportunities to get further training.

• Strive to be the very best at what you do: Be open to constructive criticism and new ways of doing things. Avoid getting stuck in a rut. Do self-assessments and seek out mentors, additional support and anything that you need to excel in your position.

• Take good care of yourself: Paying attention to how you are doing and practicing good self care is essential to being able to provide great service.

1.21 Self-Care

For any employee, self-care is important.

Your field of work is more open to vicarious or secondary trauma and given your experiences and your personal history, it is vitally important for you to have really good self-care. If you don't take good care of yourself, you cannot provide the best peer support or be a full partner with your colleagues. We are not going to go into the specifics of how you personally do your self-care, as we assume that you have had some training in that via your peer support training. Some examples of self-care includes identify and relieving stress, maintaining healthy sleep and diet, etc.

1.22 What Hat Are You Wearing?

When we talk about self-care, it is not about expecting your colleagues to provide peer support to you. You must identify and utilize your own peer support outside of your workplace if you are to remain professional in your employment.

When we talk about supervision, it is either administrative or about professional development. It is not about using your supervisor for your own personal issues. Again, that kind of support is something that you need to get outside of the workplace. Although we do note, that in some circumstances, you may be seeing a clinician in your actual workplace, however, you must be clear about which hat you are wearing; employee or person receiving services.

1.23 Letter Writing Exercise

Another aspect of self-care and being able to be a valued employee is to consider that since you come with a history of utilizing services, you may have had good or not so good experiences. If you have not had good experiences you may have to do some work to let that go so you can be a great peer support professional.

We are going to ask you to do an exercise if you have had a not so good experience with receiving services.

This exercise is designed for you to forgive and let go, not forget or approve of what they did, but be free to move forward. If you don't forgive them and let it go, you are the one who is left with a bad taste in your mouth. It is as if you drank the poison and hope they will die. You are simply hurting yourself.

For this exercise, write a letter to past mental health/addictions professionals. Say what you have not ever said.
Ask yourself:
• Why did they do what they did?

• Was it a deliberate act to hurt you or leave you with having had a not so good experience?

• Are you willing to forgive them and move forward so you can work as a team and really provide great support to the individuals you work with?

• What have you learned from these experiences?

• How might these experiences help you in your role as Peer Support Specialist?

1.24 Valued Employee

To summarize being a valued employee, we want to show an example of a not so good employee. The video is not specific to peer support, but provides some general examples that you can relate to and apply to any situation. Keep an open mind and enjoy….
Videos may take a moment to load.

1.25 first Impressions video

First Impressions video clip:

1.26 Being a valued employee

These are a few resources you can access:
Shery mead video on boundaries on YouTube:

• InterNational Association of Peer Supporters ethical guidelines:

• Mental Health Commission Canada: Guidelines for the Practice and Training of Peer Support:

2. Honor Your TeamNess:
2.1 Honor Your TeamNess:

You work as a part of teams. Teams consist of two or more people, are extremely valuable and are about working together for the common good.

In the context of this module, we are referring to “team” as being the group of professionals you work with. It is important to remember that Peer Support Specialists may be new additions to an established team and there may be challenges that you need to work through as a team.

Let's explore teams, their functions and how to get through any challenges.

2.2 Team Defined

What is a team?
A team is a number of persons associated in some joint action.

Again, we want to reiterate that team in relation to this module, is you and the group of professionals you work with. Team in another context, could mean you and the person you support, but we are not looking at that now.

2.3 What Makes an Effective Team?

• Shared Values: One of the essential requirements for an effective team is trust. At times, there may be a clash of values, particularly if you work in more traditional services, in which case, you must have open communication to come to a common understanding to move the entire team forward. When you do this, you can more openly trust one another.

• Meaningful/Common Purpose: This seems obvious but many teams do not have it. Teams are, at times, a collection of individuals who say they are trying to do the same thing. As in mental health, Peer Support Specialists all have a common purpose that people recover, however, your views on how to fulfill that purpose may differ from other team members. For example, person-centered planning. From a Peer Support Specialist perspective, the person is driving the bus, it is about self-determination. Whereas, for others, it may still be about them directing the person because they believe they know what is right for them. This is where the use of your lived experience can be utilized to engage the team and have team members see a different perspective.

• Mutual/Individual Accountability: People like to know what is expected of them. In teams, it is critical to get the balance right between what the person is expected to do on their own and what that are expected to do for each other. Sometimes there needs to be trade-offs, but they should be rare. Individual and team accountabilities must be aligned otherwise the team will pull against itself. In your work, you represent a particular perspective. There may be times where you are like an ombudsman on the team, advocating on behalf of the perspective of self-determination vs. the perspective of we know what is right for you.

2.4 What Makes an Effective Team?

• Clear Performance Goals: Teams (as distinct from individual members) have to know when they are succeeding or failing against set goals. One of the fastest ways to destroy team morale is to not recognize success and not deal with failure. If the team's success/failure can be traced to one individual then it should be dealt with accordingly. When a team is failing collectively it can be more complicated. (Example: people moving on with their lives and getting out of services. Celebrate people moving on from services and if people have been in services for a long time, assess why that is and critically analyze what could be done differently to have them move out of services.)

• Complementary Skills: Creating the perfect team requires assembling a set of differing capabilities that add value to each other (synergy), where the sum is greater than the parts. A team made up of the same kinds of people will see problems, challenges and opportunities in the same way. It will also work in the same way in solving them. The beauty of having Peer Support Specialist as part of teams is to offer a different perspective to challenge, educate and inform, in a respectful manner, team views and ideas.

• Well-Defined Working Approach: Expectations should be clearly set about who does what, when, how it is to be done and when it is due. This also includes general workplace guidelines. (Example: what time am I due at work, when are meetings, what is expected of me?)

2.5 What makes and ineffective team vs an effective team?

Let's review
What makes and ineffective team vs an effective team?

Not effective is to have competing objectives. Effective teams have aligned objectives
Not effective is to have disparate purposes. Effective teams have a common purpose
Not effective is to have individual behaviors. Effective is to have collective behaviors
Not effective is to have independent relationship. It is very effective to have interdependent relationships.
Not effective is to be internally focused for superior positions (jockey for positions). Effective teams are externally focused for superior outcomes.
Not effective teams have a win/lose outlook, and effective teams a have win/win outlook.
Succeed and fail singly is an example of not effective teams, where effective teams succeed or fail as a team together
Not effective is to have competing pressures as it stresses the team. Effective teams have the pressure of the team cause the gluing of the team together.

2.6 Fun Video clip of effective team

Fun Video clip of effective team

An individual may be brilliant and have strong core competencies but unless you are able to work in a TEAM and harness each others core competencies, you will always perform below par because there will always be situations at which you will do poorly and someone else does well.


2.7 What is my place on the team?

Your role in teams as a Peer Support Specialist is to offer a different perspective to challenge, educate and inform, in a respectful manner, team views and ideas. When we refer to operating in a respectful way, we mean not getting loud or aggressive, but supporting someone to learn and grow. They may not have the knowledge or understanding that you do. You are an expert through your experience. You have an expertise that others may not possess, different, but equally important expertise. It is up to you to use that expertise in a positive way.
(Example: You may be in a team meeting and hear someone refer to “that schizophrenic” and your role would be to say, “Oh, do you mean John”- challenging the language in a respectful way. You may use parts of your personal story to support the team to gain a better understanding of what the people you are supporting may be going through/ experiencing. There may be times where you are like an ombudsman on the team, advocating on behalf of the perspective of self-determination vs. the perspective of ‘we know what is right for you'.)

The role of the team is not to provide peer support to you. You are a colleague and a professional within the team.

2.8 How do I maximize my effectiveness?

Given your history, you may have a tendency to second guess yourself when you are part of a team. You may think the other team members have more power or more knowledge than you, and be unsure about speaking up. It is important to consider other interpretations than “I am not worthy or I'm not good enough”.
Your experience provides a richness that every team requires.
Another interpretation to consider is what you have to say is very valuable to support the other team members to learn and grow so that you can provide the best possible service you can.

2.9 Being Effective by Adapting your Communication Styles

We all have preferred ways in which we like to be communicated with. To be effective as a Peer Support Specialist, particularly on a team, it is useful to understand your own preferred style and be able to ‘read' other people's preferred style and adapt as needed. Reading other people's preferred style is simple with a few tips on what you already observe, but have probably not noticed before. We will go over these tips to support you in learning to read other's preferred communication style, so you can adapt for maximizing your communication.

It is critical to remember there is no communication style that is inherently better than others; it is just different. People are different in so many ways, and it is important to respect and appreciate your own and others uniqueness. When communicating, if you assume everyone communicates like you do, you will end up with a lot of misunderstandings.

The basis of what we are covering is from William Moulston Marsden's “Emotions of Normal People “and is widely known as DISC (HOW you behave and communicate). You must realize that although you tend to want to spend time with people like yourself, there is no one better style and in work situations, all of them are complementary. The point is for you to be able to know yourself and how you like to be communicated with and begin to be aware of how others like to be communicated with so you can adapt and increase your ability to effectively communicate with each other.


On the chart on the screen, count how many of each terms of each color you would use to describe yourself.

Which color has the most terms that you use to describe yourself. Remember that no one style is inherently better than any other. You want to be honest with yourself. Almost everyone has more than one style that influences the way they behave, however there is always one style that is the most dominant. For the purposes of this discussion, we are only going to have you identify and work with the most dominant of your communication style preferences and the most dominant style preference of others.

The color with the most terms you identified as ones you see in yourself is your Dominant Style:
Red=D Yellow= I Green= S Blue= C

2.11 Recognizing DISC Styles

This is a quick overview, we will go over each style separately.
First is the C or Compliance style
C , or compliance, is looking for: Information. When we say that they are looking for information, we mean that when they are communicating, they are seeking to find answers, and their responses in a conversation are designed to find the information they seek. If you have a dominant C style, you may notice that you are always thinking to yourself and asking questions of others to find ‘the answer' you are seeking.
When someone with a C style is stressed, the emotion they, or you, if you have a dominant C, experience is fear.
You can observe and pick up someone with a dominant C style by observing them- they are introverted and task-oriented
They are direct in their communication
When pushed or overextended they can be critical
When you are observing, notice their body language may be arms folded, might have hands on their chin. Walk deliberately in a straight line. The don't use a lot of gestures. A very good clue to tell if someone has a C dominant style is they ask detailed questions.
Some famous people who have a C dominant style are: Former US Vice President Al Gore, Mr. Spock on Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes

Next is the D or Dominance style. Someone with a D dominant style is looking for results.
When stressed, the emotion of the D Style is anger or annoyance
You can observe and pick up someone with a dominant D style by observing them- they are extroverted and task-oriented
They are direct in their communication
When pushed or overextended they can become impatient.
When you are observing, notice their body language: they may leaning forward with their hand in their pocket. They tend to walk fast, always going somewhere and they use lots of big gestures when talking. A very good clue to tell if someone has a D dominant style is they do not want others' opinions, only facts.
Some famous people who have a D dominant style are: Barbara Walters, Donald Trump, Captain Kirk on Star Trek

Next is the S or Steadiness style. Someone with a dominant S style is seeking security
When someone with an S dominant style is stressed they appear to be non-emotional. It is not that they don't have emotions, they simply do not display their emotions. And often the more stressed, the more they will appear to be detached.
You can observe and pick up someone with a dominant S style by observing them- they are Introverted and people-oriented, quiet but friendly. They are often mediators; want everyone to be happy and get along.
They are indirect in their communication, so as to not offend anyone.
When pushed or overextended they can become possessive
When you are observing, notice their body language: they may leaning back with their hand in their pocket. They tend to walk steadily at an easy pace and they some gestures when talking. A very good clue to tell if someone has a S dominant style is they have a “poker face”
Some famous people who have a S dominant style are: Gandhi, Charlie Brown (cartoon character), Former US President Jimmy Carter

And the last style is the I or Influencing style. Someone with an I dominant style is looking for the “Experience”
When stressed, the emotion of the I Style is trust and optimism
You can observe and pick up someone with a dominant I style by observing them- they are extroverted and people-oriented: they are often the ‘life of the party”, chatting to anyone and everyone
They are indirect in their communication, which may seem odd, however someone with an I style generally wants to be liked and will often say things indirectly so as to not offend
When pushed or overextended they can become disorganized
When you are observing, notice their body language: Someone with an I dominant style often stands with their feet spread and hands in their pockets. They tend to walk focusing on people and may even walk into things while they are distracted. A very good clue to tell if someone has a I dominant style is they have talk with their hands.
Some famous people who have a I dominant style are: Robin Williams, Jim Carey, Former US President Bill Clinton

2.12 D Conductor

Let's consider how people may occur when you are working with them. Remember, no one style is right or wrong or better or worse, we are looking at people's preferred style of communicating.

When you are observing people with a D dominant style you may observe:

They have a strong, clear, confident, fast-paced voice
They tend to talk very loud
In relation to body language they tend to use direct eye contact, point their finger and may tend to lean towards toward you.

Under stress they may seem:
• Impatient
• Lacking tact, aggressive
• Argumentative, opinionated
• Demanding
Someone with a D style tends to dominate and may appear to be in a hurry.

Who do you know that you can see might have a D dominant style?

2.13 D Conductor

Given that a D dominant style is looking for results, here are some words that work for them:
Lead the field

On the other hand using words with someone with a D dominant style like the following are likely to cause stress or annoyance:
Follow my directions
In my opinion

Other things that don't work are frequent interruptions when someone with a D style is on task.

These are not hard and fast ‘rules' but merely ways in which to begin to observe and adapt communication for maximum effectiveness.

2.14 I Promoter

People with a I dominant style tend to speak with lots of hand gestures, be animated and friendly with rambling explanations. They are fairly loud in volume but not as loud as someone who has a D dominant style. They tend to smile and laugh a lot and be very expressive.
A person with a dominant I style under stress may seem like they are self-promoting, overly optimistic, gabby, and unrealistic

2.15 I Promoter

Since the person who has an I dominant style is looking for ‘the experience', words that may work best with them are:
I feel...
This will make you look good

Words that are likely to not work since they don't fulfill ‘the experience' for them are:
The same for everyone
Requires study

Who do you know that you can see might have an I dominant style?

2.16 S Supporter

People with a S dominant style tend to have a low voice tone , be soft in volume and their voice seems warm. They often tend to be the one on a team that seems to get along with everyone. When observing them you may notice that they tend to have small hand gestures, appear to be relaxed, and don't display much emotion.

When someone with an S dominant style is under stress they may occur as:

They can sometimes be seen as stubborn, detached or distant

2.17 S Supporter

If you think someone has an S as their dominant style, remember they are seeking security. Some words that work better for them are:
Help me out
Think about it
And other words that help them feel secure.

On the other hand, words that do not seem to work as well are:
Substantive change
Play to win

As you can see, these words tend to be associated with risk, which makes the person with an S dominant style insecure and uncomfortable.

Who do you know that has an S dominant style?

2.18 C Analyzer

The final style we are talking about is a C dominant style.
People who have a C dominant style tend to have little or no modulation in their voice, are often very precise in what they say, may seem cool or aloof and speak in a quiet tone. They tend to have few hand gestures, have direct eye contact, and appear controlled. They may tend to speak slowly so as to ensure what they are saying is exactly what they want to say.

Under stress they may occur as:
Overly critical

2.19 C Analyzer

Remember someone with a C dominant style is looking for information and answers. To that end, the words that work better for someone with a C dominant style are:
Here are the facts…
No risk

Words that likely will not work as well given they undermine getting information and answers are:
Educated guess

Who do you know that has a C dominant style?


Let's talk about adapting your style to better communicate with others. In an ideal world, everyone would observe and adapt their communication style to each other. However, you only have control over yourself.

For now, in this discussion, we want to give you a few simple guidelines for you to use to adapt your style after observing the style of the person you are speaking with. This is not an exact science, so do not worry about making mistakes. Just try it out and using these guidelines, you will likely find yourself naturally ‘reading' people's styles and adapting.

When you observe and discover that you are communicating with a person who has a dominant D style (e.g. someone who appears to be ambitious, forceful, decisive, strong-willed, independent and goal-oriented) it is important for you to be clear, specific, brief and to the point, stick to business and be prepared with support material in a well-organized “package.”

If you are talking about things that are not relevant to the issue, leaving loopholes or cloudy issues, or appearing disorganized, you may create tension or dissatisfaction. If that happens, that observation will confirm you are likely communicating with someone who has a D dominant style and can then, step back and adapt.


When communicating with a person who‘s style is I dominant (e.g. appears to be magnetic, enthusiastic, friendly, demonstrative and political), it important to provide a warm and friendly environment, not deal with a lot of details (or if details are needed, put them in writing) and ask “feeling” questions to draw their opinions or comments.

If you occur to them as curt, cold or tight-lipped, controlling the conversation, or driving on facts and figures, alternatives, or abstractions there may be tension or dissatisfaction. If that happens, that will confirm their style and you can adapt.


If you are communicating with someone with a dominant S style (e.g. someone who you observe to be patient, predictable, reliable, steady, relaxed and modest), it is important to begin with a personal comment to break the ice, then present your case softly and non-threateningly and ask “how” questions to draw their opinions.

Tension or dissatisfaction may occur if you rush headlong into business, are being domineering or demanding, or forcing them to respond quickly to your objectives. If that happens, take a step back, remember you are dealing with someone who has an S dominant style and go ahead and adapt. Remember, they are often the mediators, and will want to have the conversation resolve to everyone's satisfaction.


When communicating with a person who is a C dominant style (e.g. dependent,
neat, conservative, a perfectionist, careful and compliant) prepare your “case” in advance, stick to business, and be accurate and realistic.

If you are being giddy, casual, informal or loud, pushing too hard or being unrealistic with deadlines, or being disorganized or messy you may create tension and dissatisfaction.

The important point is not to get this perfect, but to begin to ‘read' people's dominant preferred method of communicating which is simple when you watch and listen to them. Then you can try to adapt and increase your effectiveness.

This review of the DISC language and how to adapt is designed to support you in maximizing your effectiveness in communicating with others. It is an art, not a science and we hope you enjoy observing and adapting your style.

2.24 Tips and Tools

When it appears a team member is upset with you, it may be useful to ask yourself some questions to see whether their upset is really about you.

Ask yourself:
• Did I do something/say something that would have this person be upset with me?

• Did I not do something in relationship to my work?

• Did I say something to someone else about them that might/could have been misconstrued or taken wrong and gotten back to the person?

If the answers are no across the board, you need to let go of thinking they are upset with you unless they come to you and talk about it.
If you answered yes to any of these, you can go to them and see if they are upset with you and if they are, have a discussion to resolve it.

2.25 Summary of Honor Your TeamNess

Summary of Honor Your TeamNess
Just as a reminder, what makes an effective team is having:
• Shared values
• A meaningful/common purpose
• Mutual/individual accountability
• Clear performance goals
• Complementary skills
• A well-defined working approach

You don't always have to like all the team members you work with. What works best is to put aside your differences and preferences and work together for the common good. This does not mean stepping back from your peer values or selling out to the system. More information about that can be found in the Honor Your “PeerNess” Module.

2.26 Honor Your TeamNess Resources

Some resources for you in Honoring Your TeamNess:
What Makes An Effective Team?

Communication Styles
William Moulston Marsden: Emotions of Normal People

Target Training International

3. Peer Roles
3.1 Peer Roles

What qualifies you, uniquely, to be trained and utilized as a Peer Support Specialist is that you have a lived experience of a mental health challenge or co-occurring history and are living your recovery. While that history is essential, that alone is not enough. You also must have the skills, knowledge and the ability to do the essential functions of the job. Just as not everyone with messy handwriting will make a great doctor, not everyone with lived experience will make a great Peer Support Specialist. It is important to note, that not everyone who has had training, makes a great Peer Support Specialist. Like all professions, training is only one piece of the equation.

In this module, we will start with basic competencies for any paid or voluntary Peer Support Specialist and then discuss some additional competencies regarding the specific type of work that you might be doing.
Short term support examples include, but are not limited to, working in crisis respite, emergency room or warmline.

Longer term support examples include, but are not limited to, peer bridger (Peer Support Specialist supporting people in the hospital and as they move out into the community), community based peer support or peer run drop-ins or recovery centers.

Peer leadership examples include presenting at conferences, facilitating meetings and committees, advocating at a bigger picture level, managing services. You receive training in basic competencies and it is important to keep developing yourself professionally in these and expanding your abilities.

Some Peer Support Specialists are unclear about their job descriptions/roles/functions. We have included some job description examples in our resources section. We invite you to explore these job descriptions with the competencies we discuss in this module for specific types of work (e.g. short or longer term) to find your match based on your talents, skills and preferences.

3.2 Basic Peer Support Specialist Competencies

Let's go through some of the competencies that are necessary for all Peer Support Specialists to have:

• Mutuality: Is about the ability to contribute as well as to be contributed to and create the least amount of power differential. It is important to acknowledge and be aware that there are power differences simply because of your current role. This is where it is important for you to remember that it is all about self-determination for the person, like we discussed in ethics.

• Ability to share one's lived experience skillfully and effectively: It is a critical skill to know when and what to share in a way that makes the biggest impact in the situation. This is about sharing about hope and recovery vs. sharing war/illness stories.

• Ability to accept other's feelings: It is about recognizing everyone sees things and experiences them differently and just accepting however someone is feeling is ok. Just be with the person.

• Ability to deal with ambiguity and ‘gray areas': Being a Peer Support Specialist is a dance. There are no formulas or models to follow that say do this and this is the outcome. The skill is being able to deal with working out with the person you are supporting and your colleagues what works best.

3.3 Basic Peer Support Specialist Competencies

• Ability to be ok with discomfort and push yourself past your own discomfort: You may have a set way of doing things or a set of beliefs that you value and live by which are comfortable and familiar to you. This is about allowing yourself to go past that familiarity to do what is needed for the person and the employer. This is when you need to check your own biases and leave them at the door as we spoke about in the Being a Valued Employee Module.

• Ability to work with people where they are at/non-judgmental: You don't get to choose who you work with or where they are at in their recovery. This is about accepting people for who they are and their choices. As an example, you may have someone you are working with that is frustrated and annoyed and not wanting to talk about it or constantly talking about things that you cannot relate to-it is just about being with them, without judgment. The great thing is, the diversity that you encounter and being genuinely curious to learn more about who THAT person is, can be very exciting and rewarding. It is about embracing diversity; not just tolerating differences.

• Ability to listen: You think you listen but often you are not actually hearing fully- you are busy listening and preparing your response. This is about actually hearing everything someone is saying.

• Curiosity (vs. knowing): Nobody knows everything, even when you think you do. It is important to be in the place of discovery and ask people what is happening for them or what they want

3.4 Basic Peer Support Specialist Competencies

• Compassion: This is not about sympathy; this is about putting yourself in the other person's shoes.

• Dogged determination: There are times when it is tough to hold people's hope or feel like the system is against you when you need to stand strong and not give up.

• Ability to bridge the gap between individual and service provider/ be a liaison on any occasion: At times, service or other providers may not agree with the decisions of the person you are supporting, your job is to stand for their self-determination and their right to have their own voice heard.

• Ability to be introspective and understand yourself: You are a work in progress and you must always be open to discovering and growing yourself.

3.5 Basic Peer Support Specialist Competencies

• Ability to be a beacon of light and hope: It is your sacred opportunity to be the holders of hope until people take it for themselves.

• Ability to see what can't be seen and interested in discovery: People you support cannot always see their strengths or options. You shine the light so they can see and discover to choose what they want.

• Ability to say “I don't know”: It is ok to not know. It is a skill to say “I don't know and I will find out”.

• Ability and willingness to be wrong and take new action: It is ok to make mistakes or take actions that don't work. It is all about discovery and being willing to change game plans as needed.

3.6 Basic Peer Support Specialist Competencies

• Remaining solution-focused: Instead of looking at the problem, this is looking at a situation and considering solutions. It is about being proactive rather than reactive.

• Ability to allow people to fail/stumble: People learn and grow when things don't work out. Some of you call it failing; some of you call it stumbling. You don't need to ‘save people' or enable them because you think you know the right way. This is about allowing people the space to work it out for themselves. It is about dignity of risk and self-determination.

• Relationship building skills: To be successful, you have to be able to build strong relationships with the people you work with. All relationships have times where they are challenging.

• Advocacy skills: At times, there is a requirement to advocate for an individual, advocate within your own organization or advocate on a bigger scale. See module on Advocacy.

3.7 Peer Support Specialist Roles: Specific Competencies

There are many different roles and settings in which Peer Support Specialists are employed or volunteer. Different roles require different additional competencies than others.

When you are looking for a job, you want to match your strengths, skills and preferences to the demands of the job and environment for which you are applying. Finding your perfect match supports your workplace success.

We are categorizing roles in short term/crisis support, longer term support and peer leadership. Each of these types requires different skill sets and additional competencies.

3.8 Short Term / Crisis Support:

Some examples of short term/crisis support are working in Emergency Rooms, Crisis respite, as a member of a psychiatric emergency team or on a Warmline.

If this sort of setting is of interest, additional competencies may include:

• Being able and willing to get to know someone quickly: Time is of the essence and it is important to get past small talk and have a real conversation with someone quickly. Be skillfully intrusive by asking direct questions.

• Being able to engage people and gain their trust quickly: It is important to be able to use pieces of your story for people to get that you have an understanding of what they are going through and gain their trust. This allows you to support people to look at all options and determine appropriate ones for themselves.

• Have healed your own trauma: Given the nature of crisis support, there may be times where you see traumatic events, such as seclusion and restraints which may have happened to you in your past. Healing your own trauma allows you to be fully there for the person you are supporting rather than emotionally upset by your own past.

3.9 Short Term / Crisis Support:

• Knowing yourself well and take a ‘time out' when needed: This is about extra self-care, as crisis situations can occur as traumatic. There may be times when you need to take a break for your own sanity and it is ok to acknowledge that. It is important to be considerate of everyone involved.

• Ability to gauge what is required: This really stems from being able to read the room and the energy of the room. Many times when you encounter individuals in crisis they may appear to be pacing, angry, upset, and the skill is being able to trust your own ability to assess the situation as to whether it is safe to approach or engage some one at that time. To be able just to stand, sit or be with them where they are at, which may include sitting on the floor, or pacing alongside them. Being able to know yourself and comfort level enough to engage and approach. It's about trusting that gut feeling whether or not a situation is safe for you to approach even when clinical staff are ready to seclude or restrain or go to more extreme measures. To not add anything to a crisis situation by reacting to actions or words said. To not take what a person is saying in crisis as personal but connect with the fear, anger, whatever is there. Confidence in your ability and skill to asses a situation and have staff back off and give you the space to connect with the person in crisis.

• Being ok with the short term nature of the relationship: Given people in crisis are with you only briefly and you may not know the long term outcome of what happened to that person, it is important to be comfortable not knowing and know you did your best when they were with you.

• Having good self-esteem and confidence: Crisis services are often the furthest from recovery-oriented practices and therefore you must be strong in your belief in yourself to stand for recovery for all.

• A competency specific to working on a Warmline is being able to deal with not having visual cues. You will be developing extraordinary listening skills as you only have them to rely on to provide the best service possible.

3.10 Longer Term Support:

Some examples of longer term support are working in inpatient settings, in forensic hospitals, in peer bridger programs (Peer Support Specialists who support people in the hospital and support them as they move into the community), as a community based Peer Support Specialist, in a peer run drop ins or recovery centers.

If this sort of setting is of interest, additional competencies may include:

Facilitation skills: Facilitating groups is a common role in longer term support. Groups can end up destructive if not facilitated well. It is an art form to be an effective facilitator. Effective facilitators are well prepared, manage the dynamics of the group well, keep things on topic, etc.

Ability to support people to rebuild their foundation: If people have been unwell for a longer period of time or they have acclimated to the system telling them what to do, you support them in building the foundation they need to move forward in their lives.

Awareness and ability to operate as a peer in the face of outside pressure to conform: See the module on Honoring Your “Peerness”.

Standing for “anyone can recover”: No matter what, the belief you hold is that every single person can recover and you don't know when that will be, but it will be. You are always working with people as if they are going to step into that in the next moment.

3.11 Peer Leadership Roles:

Some examples of peer leadership are; presenting at conferences, facilitating meetings and committees, advocating at a bigger picture level and managing services.

If this sort of setting is of interest, additional competencies may include:

• Presentation Skills: Peer leaders may be required to deliver presentations, both small and large. It is important to know your audience, your topic and be comfortable speaking.

• Facilitation skills: Facilitating meetings may be part of your role in peer leadership. Meetings can end up destructive if not facilitated well. It is an art form to be an effective facilitator.

• Management skills: When managing services, there are many skills that you require like negotiation skills, human resources knowledge, budgeting, grant writing, among others.

• Mediation skills: At times leaders are called upon to deal with conflict or settle a dispute. This requires the ability to be a neutral mediator.

A good leader is also someone who encourages others to become leaders by supporting the development of their leadership skills.

3.12 Pitfalls Or things to Be Aware Of

In any role that you may take on, there are pitfalls or things to be aware of. While we are not going to go into these in-depth, there will be more information in the module titled Honoring Your "PeerNess".

When working in short term/crisis support, some common pitfalls or things to be aware of are:

• Allowing your personal issues and reactions to impact the situation: Given your history, you may see things from a skewed point of view which may have you be thinking something is occurring when it might not be. It is important to be with the person and their experience of what is happening.

• Witnessing things that are tough to witness: Given the nature of crisis, you may see people who are brought in by the police restrained or put in seclusion. This can be re-traumatizing or triggering for you. You need to be aware of this and practice self-care techniques.

• Acclimating to the environment (The unacceptable becomes acceptable): After being exposed to things that in the past were objectionable, you can get used to them and just accept them as having to be that way. You stop honoring your "PeerNess" and standing for the person and their self-determination.

3.13 Pitfalls Or things to Be Aware Of

When working in longer support, some common pitfalls or things to be aware of are:

• Slipping into a role of power: Sometimes you have been disempowered/oppressed yourself for so long that when you gain what you think is power, you go too far. The oppressed becomes the oppressor.

• Becoming friends with the people you support: When you support people in longer term relationships, there may be a tendency to get too close, to become friends, not want to let them go and to forget you are professionals delivering a service.

• Peer Support Specialist becomes the savior: You have come through tough times and think you have the answers to everyone's situation and think you can ‘save' them.

3.14 Pitfalls Or things to Be Aware Of

When working as a peer leader, some common pitfalls or things to be aware of are:

• Becoming the know-it-all: Having moved through the ranks to peer leadership it is easy to think you know-it-all.

• Becoming dictatorial: Power is attractive for all leaders and the temptation to tell other people what to do is something you must always manage for. True leadership is about collaboration.

3.15 Pitfalls Or things to Be Aware Of

• Leaving out up-and-coming leaders: At times leaders are so caught up in leading that they forget to notice the up and coming leaders; people who are expressing an interest in developing their leadership.

• Using the leadership role for your personal agenda: Sometimes people become leaders because they think they know what is best and try to steer things towards their agenda.

• Creating personal rivalries: It is natural for people to gravitate towards people they like and gather like-minded people in their corner.


3.16 Summary of Peer Roles

Summary of Peer Roles
There are many different peer roles and it is about you finding your ideal match. Consider your knowledge, your skills, attributes and areas of passion.

3.17 Peer Roles resources

See linked job descriptions for resources regarding peer roles

4. Honor Your “PeerNess”
4.1 Honor Your “PeerNess”

The role as a Peer Support Specialist is an important role and an honor. Honoring your “PeerNess”, in other words staying true to peer values in your work environment no matter what the situation is critical. When working in a mainstream service environment, you may be asked or expected to do things that go against your peer values. This is where you must stand strong. If you are to be the best Peer Support Specialist you must honor your values in a way that supports everyone. The essential component of working as a Peer Support Specialist is self-determination by the person you are supporting. That person determines what they want to do with their lives and how they want to do it. Your job is to support them in gaining the life they want, not the life someone else thinks they should have. In the following slides, we are going to talk about ways to honor the person that you are supporting or ways that could dishonor that relationship.

4.2 Tips and Techniques for Honoring Your “PeerNess”

Tips and Techniques for honoring your "PeerNess":

Do Not:

• Advise and tell people what they should be doing: they are not you, only the person can decide what is right for them

• Allow yourself to be coerced by the system: allow the unacceptable to become acceptable

• Allow yourself to be co-opted/do the bidding of the clinicians: don't do things that you know are inconsistent with what you have been trained in e.g. check medication compliance, etc.

4.3 Tips and Techniques for Honoring Your “PeerNess”

Do Not:

• Take on roles or tasks that are not consistent with being a Peer Support Specialist: e.g. become a payee for someone you are supporting

• Acclimate to unacceptable practices in the environment: thinking that using restraints is ok for “that” situation, etc.

• Throw your power about: “I am the worker here and you are the client”

4.4 Tips and Techniques for Honoring Your “PeerNess”

Do Not:

• Try to ‘fit in' and be liked by your team or employer doing things that are not peer related

• Be a ‘mole': checking up on people for clinicians (e.g. did they take medication, reporting back what the people you support are saying, etc.)

• Allow anyone to pressure you to coerce another person: your team wants you to convince someone to come to group, or not get a job, etc.

4.5 Tips and Techniques for Honoring Your “PeerNess”

Do Not:

• Become a savior: save the person you are working with from themselves, you know how to “help” them

• Be grateful ‘they' gave you a job - remember, YOU did the work around your recovery and to meet qualifications to become employed

4.6 Tips and Techniques for Honoring Your “PeerNess”

On the other hand, to honor your “PeerNess” Do:

• Stay out of the driver's seat: the person you are supporting is the one “driving the car”-remember it is about self-determination, allow the person to determine what they want to do

• Have an absolute belief in recovery for everyone: No matter how unwell someone may seem , there is a way through it

• Be comfortable in giving the people you support the opportunity to fail and grow: it's about self determination for the person; everyone succeeds at their own pace. You learn from your mistakes; (e.g. most people when they were little, learned to ride a bike. You got on a bike, you started to ride, you fell off and scraped your knee. Then you got back on the bike again and fell off again until you got balance and off you went; you were a bike rider.)

4.7 Tips and Techniques for Honoring Your “PeerNess”


• Be responsible for questioning the status quo and be willing to take a risk, not following along, just because its always been that way, ask questions and challenge ideas.

• Find and use your own voice and support others to find and use their voice to speak up if things don't seem right and support the person you are working with to say what they want.

4.8 Some Examples of

Some examples of not staying true to peer values/not honoring your "PeerNess":

• Standing behind Plexiglass to interact with people

• Calling people clients

• Referring to people as schizophrenics, bipolars, and borderlines

4.9 Some Examples of

Some examples of not staying true to peer values/not honoring your "PeerNess":

• Not sharing your recovery stories because staff said so
• Helping restrain someone
• Checking up on whether people have taken their medication or attended group and reporting that

4.10 Some Examples of

Other examples:

• Reading people's medical charts

• Being a payee for someone you support

• Calling someone a “client/patient”

4.11 Some Examples of Honoring Your “PeerNess”:

Some examples of staying true to peer values/ honoring your "PeerNess":

• Using person-first language (e.g. individual with schizophrenia instead of “a schizophrenic”)

• Challenging language used by others (e.g. when participating in multi-disciplinary teams challenging the term seriously mentally ill (SMI) so they get they are speaking about a person not a diagnosis)

• Standing up for people's self-determination and rights (e.g. a clinician may not think someone is capable of making their own decisions and your place is to stand for that person has the right to determine what is right for themselves)

4.12 Some Examples of Honoring Your “PeerNess”

• Saying no respectfully when asked to do things that dishonor your “PeerNess” (e.g. saying no to checking up on a person you work with use of medication)

• Modeling recovery at all times (e.g. self-care so that you can be the best Peer Support Specialist you can be)

4.13 Real Life Example

Let's discuss a real life examples of honoring your “PeerNess”:

A statewide consumer network gained support to apply for a SAMHSA grant in relation to developing peer support in the criminal justice system. All stakeholders were excited by the project. This included the Department of Corrections, The Courts, Department of Behavioral Health , providers and peers.

The project received funding and the Executive Director of the Statewide Consumer network advertised the position, held interviews and employed a man who was still on parole for manslaughter and had a diagnosis that the DSM V said was untreatable . The Executive Director and others on the interview panel had considered what had occurred for this man, what he had been doing in his recovery and how he was connected to the community, etc before hiring him. The philosophy of the organization was that everyone can recover.

Upon hiring this man, the Judge of the Mental Health Court, a prominent person in the state, sent an email out to many stakeholders with inaccurate information about this man's court case (which had occurred more than 12 years previously) which also included information from the DSM V about his diagnosis and that it was untreatable. The Judge stated that it was unacceptable for the statewide consumer network to employ this person and they would no longer be involved or support the project. He stated that the statewide consumer network was allowing a criminal to be with vulnerable people.

The Executive Director called a meeting of all stakeholders, including a national peer leader involved in forensic peer support and provided information, statistics, etc. about the project and discussed the process for employing the man. The Executive Director allowed all parties to discuss their issues. At the end of the meeting, the Judge was adamant that no one related to the Court system would be involved in the project at issue. All other stakeholders said they were happy to move forward with the project. The Executive Director checked with her Board before sending a letter to the Judge saying that the statewide consume network was committed to the man being the worker for the project and they hoped at some point the Judge would allow someone from her staff to be on the project advisory body.

The potential of the project failing, because stakeholders did not support it,or losing the funding was a risk, but the statewide consume network honored its “PeerNess”/stayed true to peer values in the face of disagreement and pressure.

Where do you stand up to honor your "PeerNess“?

4.14 Checklist for Honoring Your “PeerNess”

Checklist for Honoring Your "PeerNess"
Use this simple checklist to check yourself; are you staying true to peer values?
You may add questions for yourself, as you see fit.

Ask yourself:

• Is what I am doing honoring self-determination for the person I am supporting?
• Is what I am being asked to do consistent with my training?
• Do I still believe that every single person can recover?
• Is the person I am supporting driving the bus?
• Am I respectful at all times?
• Am I using person-first language at all times?
• Am I modeling recovery at all times?
• Is the unacceptable becoming acceptable?
• Am I just trying to fit in?

4.15 Conflict Resolution

With every relationship and in every job, there exists the likelihood of conflict. You come across it everywhere, particularly if you are working as a Peer Support Specialist in more traditional service types.
The origin of conflict stems from a person having a point of view, but not always treating it like it is one possible point of view but, rather, treating their point of view as if it is the ONLY point of view. That leaves everyone else, who has a different point of view, wrong. The problem is that other people may also have this issue. And then you have two or more people with the ONLY/RIGHT point of view which then leads to a conflict!


4.16 No Win Tug of War

Other emotions and actions that are common that escalate conflict are:
• being afraid
• feeling like a victim
• you vs them mentality
• being hurt
• feeling betrayed
• talking about the person/gossiping
• withdrawing/shutting down
• judging the other person and making them wrong

When you experience conflict, realize that you are fighting for your point of view and they are simply fighting for theirs. Like people in a tug of war, what you find is that the harder you pull, the harder they pull and you really don't get very far.

4.17 Steps to Resolve Conflict

It is actually very simple to resolve conflict.

When you find yourself in a conflict, stop a minute, take a deep breath.
Ask yourself- what is my point of view. Why do I think this is the correct point of view?
Ask the other person- what is your point of view and why do you think that is the correct point of view. Then LISTEN. This is the most challenging part- you have to actually listen to what they are saying, not from fighting them or waiting your turn to voice your concerns, but listen as if they might be right. Allow yourself to look from their point of view.
Then, get clear if you understood everything by repeating back to them what you think you heard and do that until they let you know you heard them correctly.
When you get what they are saying, you may find yourself altering your point of view. If there are further things to discuss and you want to share with them some of your point of view- ask them and work through it together. This is how you work as partners.

NOTE: If there is a conflict between you and someone else, DO NOT EVER attempt to resolve it via text or email. Given words are only a small part of communication; misinterpretation is very likely to occur and may make the situation worse. Meet with them in person (preferred) or on the phone (if you can't meet in person) to resolve the conflict.

For an in depth training, refer to the CAFÉ TAC's training: Conflict Resolution: Challenging Organizational Change and Growth

4.18 Conflict Resolution video clip

Conflict resolution video: stopping at 2 mins 43 sec

4.19 Summary of Honoring Your “PeerNess”

Trust your training and be prepared to continually look at yourself and your actions and utilize conflict resolution when you need to.

4.20 Honoring Your “PeerNess” Resources

For resources on Honoring Your “PeerNess” see:
Example of a Conversation with Case Manager

Conflict Resolution
The Café TAC: Conflict Resolution: Challenging Organizational Change and Growth

5. Advocacy
5.1 Advocacy

Advocacy is speaking with, not for, an individual, as well as advocacy within a system/ organization which is speaking for or standing for rights. Notice this does not say fight against. It is being FOR something vs AGAINST something else.
The most common way most people relate to advocacy or being an advocate of someone is when you are fighting AGAINST something. This puts you in a position where you are almost always in some form of upset or disagreement. Coming from that place causes you to waste energy on being upset and your ‘fighting', is less effective, and constrains your thinking.
Imagine that you simply have a different view. Then you could have a conversation about what your view is and what their view is with the intention of having them see/acknowledge what your view is. This gives you then the ability to stand FOR something. Standing FOR something is way more powerful and effective and satisfying.

5.2 Different Perspectives of Advocacy

One of the greatest skills you have, in terms of advocacy, is the use of the story of your lived experience to move things forward in a way that supports system change or supports individuals' recovery
Your roles require an enormous amount of advocacy. We are going to explore this from three different perspectives:

• Individual Advocacy: how to advocate with someone you are supporting

• Organizationally: how to be a change agent in the organization you work for

• Systemically: how to be on committees or boards effectively

5.3 Individual Advocacy

Individual Advocacy

• An advocate is a person who speaks with, not for, someone else, to help them get what they need. An advocate has a clear purpose.

• An advocate is not loud or bullying, the goal is for the person you are supporting to be heard. Individual advocacy is about empowering the person to speak up for themselves. You may help them to develop questions before hand and just be with them; or they may ask you to speak on their behalf. Only ever do this with the person present and encourage them to speak for themselves with your support.

• When you act as an advocate for someone, be sure you know exactly what they want and need. Take notes and ask a lot of questions so you have accurate information on behalf of the person. If they have asked you to speak for them initially, never misrepresent their needs and interests, and always be honest about what they are asking for.

5.4 Individual Advocacy

• You may not always agree with what the person wants, but your job is about them driving the car.

• It is not about you being a back seat driver.

• You are there to support them and ride along. Let them use their own voice.

5.5 Organizational Advocacy

Organizational Advocacy
This is about being a change agent in the organization you work for. It is about modeling peer values. Some examples of the values that you embody include self-determination for the person, anyone can recover, person-first language. You are in a team meeting and someone is talking about “Mary can never work again because she will always be sick.”, you may choose to share part of your story where you may have been told that and look at where you are now. There may be policies within the organization, e.g. someone with a criminal justice history cannot work and you challenge that by having them look at the person vs their history. You may ask to be a peer representative on committees at work, for example, the quality management committee or the complaints investigation team. Be prepared to present the case of why it is important to have a peer represented on those committees. See Systemic Advocacy for effective ways to participate on committees.

5.6 Systemic advocacy

So you want to be on a committee… it is important to consider what you are passionate about and not be on a committee for the sake of being on that committee. Often you are put in situations where you are the only peer with lived experience on the committee and this can be challenging. It is important for you to speak from your heart and express your views in a way that people can hear them. It is not about being aggressive. If you get aggressive, people stop listening to what you have to say, and you loose the opportunity to have the lived experience point of view taken into consideration.

It is important to have done the work and healed yourself and forgiven the system for any harm that had happened to you before you can be an effective committee member. (See Module on Honor Your “Peerness” for more on this). You then come from a place of constructively providing feedback vs being aggressive and taking things personally. It is more a dance to persuade.

You are not always going to win and get your way. You must pick your battles and manage your own upset when you don't get what you want or what you feel is just/right. You can still stand for what you believe and start a conversation. Sometimes just getting them in the conversation is a win.

5.7 Systemic advocacy

• It is ok to ask questions/ get clarification if you are unsure about something. Being under informed can sometimes be an advantage: you can ask the question, “Why is it done the way it is and why can't it be done differently?” You get to destroy the limits. You have the opportunity to stand for what others may consider unrealistic and impossible as being possible.

• Your lived experience is your greatest tool in this discussion.

• You must stay professional at all times.

5.8 Tips for Preparing to be on a Committee or be a Board Member

There are definitely opportunities for consumers to engage the system, but how can somebody go about it? Maybe there is a board, committee, or planning council in your area that you would love to be a part of. How do you go from being an outside observer to being an active participant? Here are a few ideas:

• Find a mentor

• Review any previous minutes

• Take responsibility for educating yourself: Get information on policies, procedures, pertinent statutes, Robert's Rules of Order (the formal way meetings are run)

5.9 Tips for Getting involved

• Observe : Many meetings of boards, committees and planning councils are open to the public. You can learn a lot by just attending meetings, and listening to the proceedings. By observing, it will become clear what issues are most important to the group. You can learn how they run their meetings and make decisions. It will also become apparent as to which members are most vocal, and you will be able to get a sense of the tone that is set within a group. Most importantly, you should be able to learn whether or not a group is familiar with recovery principles, and friendly to including the perspectives of people with lived experience.

• Learn the culture : Every board, committee or council has its own unique culture. It's worth taking the time to learn as much as possible about that culture before becoming a vocal member. Some pieces of this culture will be laid out in black and white. The name of the group will give you the first indicator of its purpose, because it will show how the group identifies itself. Some groups will have a mission or purpose that is clearly stated. In some instances, when a body has been created by law, the group's purpose may even be described in statute. Whatever the nature of the group you would like to join, or however it was created, try to learn as much as you can before getting involved.

• Follow the process :Is there time for public comment at meetings? Is there an application process? Are there requirements in terms of place or residence, professional experience, etc.? The more you know about the mechanics of how a given group works, the better prepared you will be to engage that group on its own terms, and the more likely that engagement is to be successful.

5.10 Tips for Getting involved

• Develop relationships :One good way to become an effective member of a board, committee or council is to begin by developing individual relationships with particular members. You may notice that there are people in a group that are friendly and approachable. You may notice that certain participants in meetings seem more receptive to input from outside voices, or even from people with lived experience specifically. Try to seek out those people, and develop a rapport with them as individuals before you become a full-fledged member of the group. Take the time to develop a personal relationship with one or two members that is based in common interest. Consider sharing your story, or at least talking openly about why the work of the group in question is important to you, and why you feel your input as a person with lived experience would be valuable. If you make the effort to develop personal relationships with select members before you become part of a group, you will feel more comfortable once you become a full-fledged member, and you will have ready-made allies to support you in speaking out when the time comes.

• Don't go it alone :Trying to become active in a board, committee or planning council can be intimidating. You know that you are the expert, because you have lived experience. At the same time, the culture of the group you want to become part of may be hard to understand. Additionally, the group may include professionals, government officials, or others that play roles of authority in traditional power dynamics. One way to overcome the intimidation factor in a group setting is to bring a like-minded peer. One person in a new setting may be afraid to speak up. Two people working together can rely on each other for support, courage and affirmation.

• Be open-minded: Most boards, committees and planning councils bring together people with diverse backgrounds. Some may be healthcare professionals, some may represent provider agencies, and some may represent diverse social, personal and professional backgrounds. You may encounter family members, or other advocates with varied perspectives. Remember, committees, boards and planning councils work by consensus. It's very unlikely that every member will agree on a given topic. Even when disagreement occurs, it's essential to listen to other members openly. Disagreement and debate are a normal part of the process, so don't let them prevent you from making your voice part of the conversation.

• Don't give up: It can definitely be intimidating to try to engage with a board, committee or council that has its own history and power dynamics. You may worry that you are just a token self-advocate, and that your experiences and opinions aren't being valued. Try to remember that change happens over a long period of time, through the work of countless individuals like you. It might be difficult to see on a day-to-day basis, but by making an effort to have the voice of lived experience represented in your community, you are making a difference. If you can stay engaged, even when it becomes frustrating or difficult, you will eventually be able to look back and recognize the difference your advocacy has made.

5.11 Summary on Advocacy

Points to remember when advocating:

• Make sure you have all the facts: if you attempt to advocate without all the facts, you could end up looking foolish

• Discover who can help you: it would be unusual for you to have all the answers, look for people who can help/support you

• Prepare in advance: walk in to a meeting, etc being totally prepared and have considered possible questions people may ask

• Be polite: being angry/upset/etc does not help the situation, always be professional and polite

5.12 Summary on Advocacy

• Offer a solution: be solution focused, rather than problem focused

• Be persistent: do not waiver in what you want; although know that at times you may not get it all, you may need to “let it go”

• Consider strength in numbers: always work towards having more than one person with lived experience on a committee

• Do not assume that others are automatically opposed: Consider that they might want the same thing, but have not figured out how to make that happen.

5.13 Advocacy Resources

Advocacy Resources:

National Mental Health Consumers' Clearinghouse

Serving on Councils and Committees
The Café TAC: Make Your Voice Heard Through Boards, Committees and Councils

6. Utilizing Supervision Effectively
6.1 Utilizing Supervision Effectively

Supervision is crucial to the success of the peer support workforce. Supervisors must be “champions” of developing the agency peer support workforce. Clear and direct communications between the supervisor and the Peer Support Specialist is essential

6.2 Types of Supervision

There are two types of supervision: administrative and professional development.

• Administrative supervision is about timesheets, organizational policies and procedures and other related organizational issues.

• Professional supervision is about your growth as a Peer Support Specialist.

We are going to focus on professional development supervision and how to get the most out of your supervision and support your supervisor/s in their role.

6.3 The Purpose of Supervision

Remember what hat you are wearing when you receive supervision. It is not about using supervision for your own personal issues/peer support. That kind of support is something you need to get from outside your workplace. We discussed this briefly in the Being a Valued Employee module.

• It is important that supervision is a dynamic process in which you are supported by your supervisor to make the best use of your knowledge and skills so as to perform the requirements of the position effectively.

• In this context, the purpose of supervision is to support you to be resourceful and effective in performing your work duties.

• Supervision works well as a reflective process whereby the supervisor supports you to examine your performance and continue to develop and refine your abilities to perform duties as effectively as possible. This is where clear job descriptions, understanding of peer values and roles come in; as described in other modules.

6.4 Supervisor Responsibilities

The supervisor is responsible for creating an environment for learning and growth. In the ideal environment, your supervisor will:

• Create a supportive environment in which you are encouraged to learn and develop the capacity to apply and refine your skills

• Promote a stimulating environment; an environment which involves questioning and reflective practices

• Support you to identify strengths and areas for growth and work with you to set clear goals to develop and refine your skills and abilities

6.5 Supervisor Responsibilities

•Treat you as a professional; just as they would any other colleague

•Be willing to give you regular constructive feedback without you having to ask or leave you wondering how you are doing

•Actively request feedback from you and use your feedback to further develop themselves and provide you with a great supervisor experience

Having supervisors work with you in this way creates an environment in which you and they together can provide the people you serve with the best service possible

6.6 How do you get the most out of your supervision?

Given that is what supervisors will ideally do, how do you get the most out of your supervision?

1. You start by ensuring you are totally clear about your role, peer support values, your code of ethics as a Peer Support Specialist and your job description.

2. Then you ensure your supervisor understands your role. The place to come from is that your supervisor becomes your best advocate. You have the supervisor look great; this becomes a win - win situation, they look great because you look great.

3. To do that, you want to strongly advocate for a supervisor who is an experienced Peer Support Specialist, or at least someone with lived experience to be the person who supervises your professional development. In many situations, Peer Support Specialists are supervised by mental health clinicians; particularly if you are working in Medicaid billable services. This can create stress if the person supervising you does not have a clear understanding of peer support and its value base. If this is the case:

6.7 Empowering Your Supervisor

To empower your supervisor:

• Start by providing the supervisor with the Peer Support Specialists':
• code of ethics
• job description
• training content (both initial and any continuing education credits (CEUs, or specialized training you have had)

• Encourage the supervisor to attend training on supervising peers support specialist. Note: there are not a lot of peer delivered supervisor trainings available but they MUST be delivered by peers with experience in the peer support world. This will ensure they provide relevant information and support the supervisor to understand the Peer Support Specialist role and its values.

• Explain that self-determination is the lynch pin/crucial/critical support provided by a Peer Support Specialist. There may be times when supporting self-determination may go against what a treatment team is advocating for and there may be conflict to work through. Support your supervisor by working with them to resolve the conflict in a way that benefits the person you are supporting

6.8 Get Clear on Expectations

You need to be clear about your supervisor's expectations and they need to be clear about yours. Some things you and they will want to discuss to clarify and agree to may include but not be limited to:

• How you develop, or deepen your relationship: like all relationships, this one takes some time to develop, especially given different personalities, styles of communicating and your roles within the relationship.

• Having a scheduled time for supervision: it is important to set up a consistent scheduled time and frequency.

• Clear agenda items: come prepared with questions, concerns or issues that relate to your job.

6.9 Get Clear on Expectations

• Being able to ask for what you need to do your job effectively: do not be afraid to ask.

• “No go” zones related to ethics of professionals :e.g. it is not okay for a supervisor to bring up your general mental health issue, have discussions with your clinician if you are receiving clinical support, or discuss things from your past if they have previously been your clinician.

• Personal “No go” zones - consider your own boundaries, comfort, etc., but remember you are a professional and have to do your job even if there is some discomfort at times.

6.10 What happens in Supervision?

Once you are clear that everyone is on the same page you can look at what generally occurs in supervision. Typical topics for professional development supervision may include such things as:

• Professional issues: topics such as ethics, values, time management, job duties, roles and responsibilities, confidentiality, documentation

• Education/Growth: skills development and sharing of resources and assisting with accessing resources

• Relationships and communications with co-workers

• Personal issues: challenges getting in the way of performing duties or factors that can improve performance and wellness. NOTE: we are not speaking about general personal issues but only those personal issues that are impacting work performance

6.11 Co-Supervision

The other kind of professional supervision that may be useful is co-supervision.
What is co-supervision?

• It is where we meet with other Peer Support Specialists and discuss issues together.

Shery Mead, the developer of Intentional Peer Support, talks about co-supervision being:

• A process that we can use to support each other to reflect on your practices (how we're doing what we say we want to be doing)
• It is about us creating expertise together through a process of learning, practice and reflection

Not all workplaces allow time for this kind of supervision but Peer Support Specialists can advocate for this, or create co-supervision on their own time.

NOTE: It is important to have an experienced Peer Support Specialist who is also skilled as a facilitator to facilitate this type of supervision. There may be opportunities to do this type of supervision online with others from around the country too.

6.12 Getting the Most from Supervision Summary

• Ask for what you need, you may be surprised. NOTE: this does not mean being entitled

• Make sure you understand your role as a Peer Support Specialist

• Make sure your supervisor understands your role by equipping them with knowledge

• Create clear expectations for each role by discussing and agreeing on what is expected

• Create a win - win situation: your supervisor wins, you win and vice versa

• Be PROFESSIONAL at all times

6.13 Introduction to Scenarios

These scenarios are based on examples that are common in our field. Each slide will contain a scenario for you to consider and the following slide will provide an example of how you might handle it. We ask that you read the scenario, think about what you would do in this situation and then look at the example answer slide. These examples are about supporting your supervisor to understand your role as a Peer Support Specialist.

6.14 Scenario 1

Your supervisor has requested that you don't talk about any of your experiences using services, or your recovery, to the person you're supporting.

6.15 Scenario 1 Possible Solution

Remember to use conflict resolution skills and stay calm. Start by acknowledging your supervisor's concerns. Discuss what peer support in general is (e.g. about mutuality and sharing your experience peer to peer). Explain that the beauty of the relationship is the sharing of common experiences. Discuss examples in other fields (e.g. diabetes peer support, cancer survivor groups, etc.).

If you have a job description that talks about lived experience, bring that out and discuss it. You can also utilize the competencies of peer support as outlined in the Peer Roles module.

6.16 Scenario 2

Your supervisor has stated that other staff have said you won't let them know whether John is taking his medicine. They know he talks to you about it. Your supervisor states that you MUST tell staff whether John is ,or is not, taking his medication.

6.17 Scenario 2 Possible Solution

Remember to use conflict resolution skills and stay calm. Start by acknowledging your supervisor's concerns. Discuss the concepts of mutuality, respect and trust. Explain that at the moment, John is trusting and talking to at least one person. Losing John's trust by telling other team members what he said may mean that he no longer tells anyone anything. The breach of confidentiality undermines the recovery process. This may also have a devastating impact if he is ever in a place where he is feeling upset, alone or suicidal and doesn't talk about it because he doesn't trust anyone.

6.18 Scenario 3

Your supervisor has seen you give Bonnie a hug and they tell you this is a boundary issue and to not do it again for anyone, at anytime.

6.19 Scenario 3 Possible Solution

Remember to use conflict resolution skills and stay calm. Start by acknowledging your supervisor's concerns. Explain how boundaries are not the same because you are not a clinician. Explain that mutuality and relationships are the key to creating the link in a Peer Support Specialist's role. Whether you hug someone or not in a Peer Support Specialist role is a personal consideration in how you manage complex relationships; rather than a hard and fast rule. NOTE: Peer Support Specialist's Code of Ethics do talk about no intimate relationships and this example is not about that.

6.20 Scenario 4

Your supervisor has called you in to meet with them. In the meeting you are expressing distress and your supervisor thinks you are becoming agitated and symptomatic.

6.21 Scenario 4 Possible Solution

Remember to use conflict resolution skills and stay calm. Remind the supervisor that they are not your clinicians but that you are an employee and that roles need to be kept clear. Ask/remind them that if it was another employee who was not in a Peer Support Specialist role, that they probably wouldn't automatically assume they were becoming unwell or symptomatic. Explain that not all emotions are about being unwell but that there may be valid reasons for your distress given the conversation and meeting content.

6.22 Scenario 5

You are being asked by your supervisor to do work against your code of ethics: e.g. Be someone's payee.

6.23 Scenario 5 Possible Solution

Remember to use conflict resolution skills and stay calm. Describe the mutuality of peer support and the limited power differential in that relationship. Explain that a Peer Support Specialist is no longer working within peer values of the peer support code of ethics if there is any power “over” someone (e.g. if you as a Peer Support Specialist can say yes or no, you are no longer operating as a peer). This will destroy the relationship and ability to be effective as a Peer Support Specialist.

6.24 Getting the Most from Supervision resources

Supervision Resources:
Intentional Peer Support (great work on Co-supervision)


Some Quotes we want to leave you with:
“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you're writing, and aren't writing particularly well.”
― Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

“[On writing:] "There's a great quote by E. Julius Irving that went, 'Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them.'"
(One On 1, interview with Budd Mishkin; NY1, March 25, 2007.)”

If you think a professional is expensive, wait 'til you try an amateur.”
― Paul "Red" Adair

“The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

6.26 The Café TAC

Thank you so much for staying with us in learning more about how to succeed in the workplace - peers as professionals.
This presentation was brought to you by the Café TA Center. The Café TA Center is supported by SAMHSA to operate one of its five national technical assistance
centers providing technical assistance, training, and resources that facilitate the restructuring of the mental health system through effective consumer-directed approaches for adults with mental health challenges across the country.
You can visit our website and find other trainings, information, resources, and things that you might be able to use in your everyday work.
Thank you very much and we appreciate your time. Thank you.