In some cases, it can take several attempts for individuals to break free from addiction, but getting help is necessary for effective long-term recovery. According to the Center for Disease Control, 88,000 people die of alcohol-related deaths and 70,000 from drug overdoses each year. There is a natural tendency to hide addiction but opening up and talking to someone else is stress-relieving and therapeutic. New Vista (formerly Bluegrass) provides a comprehensive Substance Use Recovery program, which provides therapy and psychiatry care along with case management and peer support services.
Peer support specialists have lived experience because they have been down the same road and can help answer questions about the path to recovery. Everyone’s experience will be unique, but peer support specialists offer an exceptional addition to the substance use treatment continuum. Studies have shown that peer support can help people learn new strategies for coping with the stress and triggers of everyday life in recovery while offering a genuine sense of connectedness since peers have had similar struggles and setbacks and serve as an inspiration for success.
Peer support offers a level of acceptance, understanding and validation not found in many other professional relationships (Mead & McNeil, 2006). By sharing their own lived experience and practical guidance, peer support specialists help people to develop personal goals, create strategies for self-empowerment and take concrete steps towards building fulfilling, self-determined lives for themselves.1
What Does A Peer Support Specialist Do?
A peer support specialist is someone with the lived experience of recovery from a mental health condition, substance use disorder, or both. They provide support to others experiencing similar challenges. They provide non-clinical, strengths-based support and are experientially credentialled by their own recovery and have been trained and certified by the Commonwealth of Kentucky as peer support specialists. Peers may be referred to by different names depending upon the setting in which they practice. Common titles include peer specialists, peer recovery coaches, peer advocates, and peer recovery support specialists.
Bobby Acker, Peer Support Specialist, shares, “I became a peer support specialist to help as many people as I can. I know when I was struggling, before I got help, it seemed like there was no hope for me. I came across a few individuals, who had been through exactly what I was going through and they had recovered from it. It gave me the hope that I needed at that time. I want to be that hope for people and to let them know that no matter how far down you’ve fallen, you can always get back up. My work allows me to take a lot of my negative past and turn it into something positive.”
How Does Peer Support Help?
Peers support people’s progress towards recovery and self-determined lives by sharing vital experiential information and real examples of the power of recovery. The sense of mutuality created through thoughtful sharing of experience is influential in modeling recovery and offering hope (Davidson, Bellamy, Guy, & Miller, 2012).1
Studies Show that Peer Support Programs Benefit Patients in the Following Ways:
. Increase self-esteem and confidence
. Increase control and ability to bring about changes in their lives
. Increased sense that treatment is responsive and inclusive of needs
. Increased hope and inspiration
. Decreased psychotic symptoms
. Decreased substance use and depression1
Jim Bush, VP of Substance Use Services, explained, “New Vista treats addiction as a disease and provides services to meet the needs and goals of the patient. For example, the type of substance use, the length, and severity of use, physical and mental health are all factors that determine the best treatment options specific to each person. Our treatment practices are proven to be effective and to set individuals on a comprehensive path to recovery. We’re proud to have added our peer support program along with our other services of care. Peer support is proving to be highly effective, as patients feel understood and are encouraged to make strides forward on their path to recovery.”
About New Vista
New Vista is the Community Mental Health Center providing clinical services to nearly 25,000 adults, children, and families in 17 Central Kentucky counties. New Vista is a mission-driven nonprofit working with the communities to develop innovative programs to respond rapidly to both individual and community needs. If you are a loved one needs help with substance use services, please call our 24-Hour Helpline 1.800.928.8000.
24-Hour Helpline 1.800.928.8000
1. SAMSHA, (2017). Value of Peers: Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, US Dept of Health and Human Services, https://www.samhsa.gov/brss-tacs/recovery-support-tools/peers.
Davidson, L., Bellamy, C., Guy, K., & Miller, R. (2012). Peer support among persons with severe mental illnesses: a review of evidence and experience. World Psychiatry, 11(2), 123-128.
Davidson, L., Chinman, M., Kloos, B., Weingarten, R., Stayner, D., & Tebes, J. K. (1999). Peer support among individuals with severe mental illness: A review of the evidence. Clinical psychology: Science and practice, 6(2), 165-187.
Mead, S., & McNeil, C. (2006). Peer support: What makes it unique. International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, 10(2), 29-37.