I recently attended the Soteria introductory webinar on Intentional Peer Support (IPS). Intentional Peer Support is a way of thinking about and inviting transformative relationships. Practitioners learn to use relationships to see things from new angles, develop greater awareness of personal and relational patterns, and support and challenge each other in trying new things.
Three IPS-certified instructors presented the webinar. It was three hours, but the time just flew by. I loved the webinar flow; it was like sitting around with friends, listening to, and appreciating their wisdom. Portions of the webinar were interactive; we met in breakout rooms to do an exercise. We were also given an IPS overview handout. In it, Sherry Mead, IPS founder, looks back at her journey and tells how IPS developed.
What is different about IPS than what I had heard from other programs is that peers are not there as helpers. We may understand or have experienced something similar, but we are not there to help them get through it. There is no hierarchy of "I have experienced this already; let me show you how...". With the IPS model, we are there to "be with," offering empathy and strength while relating to one another. We move from a place of helping to a place that lets us learn together.
The four tasks of intentional peer support are:
Using these four tasks, we move out of fear towards hope and possibility. Peers know what they know, partly because their recovery is based on hope and their desire to forge a path for things to work for them, not against them.
There is so much richness in this program. Check out Intentional Peer Support. The following statement encapsulates the essence of the peer support program.
"As peer support in mental health proliferates, we must be mindful of our intention: social change. It is not about developing more effective services, but rather about creating dialogues that have influence on all of our understandings, conversations, and relationships." – Shery Mead, Founder of IPS.
By Natalie Conrad