Intentional Peer Support

Working on the model devised by Shery Mead, we have trained a number of people who use mental health services in Sutton as Intentional Peer Support Workers (IPSWs). 

IPSWs are people who have personal experience of mental distress and of using mental health services. They offer mutual support to anyone who feels that it may be helpful to talk about their own experience of mental distress and mental health services with someone who has been there too. Thus establishing a mutually beneficial relationship, which is both supportive and moves towards personal goals.

Out of Hours Support

“Intentional Peer Support” is the term used to describe a variety of groups and/or practices where people seek to learn and grow as equals by drawing on their own and each others’ knowledge, skills and experiences. Peer support is most commonly found in settings where it is important that people of the same standing look out for each other, and where power, hierarchy, disempowerment and claims to special knowledge about others have been found to get in the way of people working together and caring for themselves and each other.

“The class was organised in such a way that we all learned from each other, and visibly grew together”

(Martyn’s testimonial – read the full transcript below)

Intentional Peer Support avoids the psychiatric or medical model based around a diagnosis and instead starts with people’s own stories.

Intentional Peer Support is about creating relationships that make it okay for us to not just be in peer relationships, but to use them as a tool to take a bigger look at how we’ve learned to operate in the world… Being intentional means that we come into the relationship with a specific purpose in mind. While peer support assumes the characteristics of any healthy relationship, there is also a specific intention. The intention is to purposefully communicate in ways that help both people step outside their current story. (Mead, 2005, p.15)


“I attended the Sutton Mental Health Foundation’s Intentional Peer Support (IPS) training course between February & April 2015. I had no previous experience of Peer Support, and came along with no preconceptions of what to expect. I, along with eight other students spent ten weeks understanding the Four Tasks of IPS, and putting this understanding to use via role play scenarios. The classroom teaching was augmented with homework, and we were each provided with a workbook to complete.

The class was lead by Carol Jacques, and she was ably assisted by two current IPS workers, Fiona Denton and Jamal.

From my perspective, I went from zero knowledge to a full appreciation of IPS during the ten weeks. The class was organised in such a way that we all learned from each other, and visibly grew together. The homework, although not arduous, was certainly thought provoking, and caused me to both question and challenge many of my own preconceptions. This in itself is essential to IPS when establishing Connection and understanding the Worldview of our peers.

The group was set a final assessment, which was for each of us to prepare a presentation to illustrate the Four Tasks. Each student then presented back to the class. This was quite amazing, as no two presentations were alike, and each one very individual. This clearly demonstrated how the course teachings had been understood by each and every one of us, and again, how we had all grown during the process.

Carol and her colleagues did a fine job, and as a result, have a team of very eager and willing students prepared and ready to take Intentional Peer Support both onto the ward, and into the community.”