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.
Intentional Peer Support Workers are people who have themselves 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.
“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.
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)