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The benefits and drawbacks of peer support

Home | Working with Voices | Peer Support | Benefits and drawbacks of peer support
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Benefits

As peer support can be provided in so many different ways, in so many different settings, it’s hard to speak for all the variations. However, the following are some of the benefits that are usually associated with peer support:

1) Personal benefits
  • Empowerment
  • Finding a voice
  • Increased confidence and self-esteem
  • Finding a source of hope and optimism
  • Companionship and friendship
  • Reduced isolation
2) Collective benefits
  • Mutual understanding, shared identity and shared experience
  • A sense of belonging
  • Collective action / campaigning – challenging the status quo
  • Creating new knowledge and questioning dominant models
3) Practical benefits
  • Accessing information and advice
  • Learning new skills and strategies
  • Signposting to other sources of help and information
4) Social benefits
  • Increased social networks and social inclusion
  • Citizenship
  • Challenging stigma and discrimination
  • Achieving a sense of justice and equality in society
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Drawbacks

Peer support services, groups and networks are so diverse that there is no guarantee that they all hold to the values described above. There is no universal mark of quality (and the idea of there ever being one is fiercely debated). As such, it’s wise to always find out about the values and practices of a project before joining it.

Equally, someone having been through similar life experiences as you doesn’t necessarily mean that they are someone you’ll ‘click with’, or that they have an approach that you find useful. Because peer support is based on relationships, finding a person or group that you feel comfortable with is important.

Some people are pushed to join peer support projects and initiatives because of cuts to existing services or as a pathway out of secondary care. This isn’t the best way to begin any peer support relationship – it is unequal when one person doesn’t want to be there.

Some people attend peer support groups or projects, yet are looking for professional help and support. In this case, the focus on developing answers together than be jarring. Peer support can run alongside other forms of support (like medication, therapy etc). However, choice is crucial.

Some people feel that they have so much going on in their own lives that hearing other people’s experiences is too much and will make things worse. This is a valid fear. For this reason, some people prefer individual peer support rather than group options. Others find professional support more helpful.

 Benefits and drawbacks of peer support icon
 Benefits and drawbacks of peer support icon
R

Benefits

As peer support can be provided in so many different ways, in so many different settings, it’s hard to speak for all the variations. However, the following are some of the benefits that are usually associated with peer support:

1) Personal benefits
  • Empowerment
  • Finding a voice
  • Increased confidence and self-esteem
  • Finding a source of hope and optimism
  • Companionship and friendship
  • Reduced isolation
2) Collective benefits
  • Mutual understanding, shared identity and shared experience
  • A sense of belonging
  • Collective action / campaigning – challenging the status quo
  • Creating new knowledge and questioning dominant models
3) Practical benefits
  • Accessing information and advice
  • Learning new skills and strategies
  • Signposting to other sources of help and information
4) Social benefits
  • Increased social networks and social inclusion
  • Citizenship
  • Challenging stigma and discrimination
  • Achieving a sense of justice and equality in society
Q

Drawbacks

Peer support services, groups and networks are so diverse that there is no guarantee that they all hold to the values described above. There is no universal mark of quality (and the idea of there ever being one is fiercely debated). As such, it’s wise to always find out about the values and practices of a project before joining it.

Equally, someone having been through similar life experiences as you doesn’t necessarily mean that they are someone you’ll ‘click with’, or that they have an approach that you find useful. Because peer support is based on relationships, finding a person or group that you feel comfortable with is important.

Some people are pushed to join peer support projects and initiatives because of cuts to existing services or as a pathway out of secondary care. This isn’t the best way to begin any peer support relationship – it is unequal when one person doesn’t want to be there.

Some people attend peer support groups or projects, yet are looking for professional help and support. In this case, the focus on developing answers together than be jarring. Peer support can run alongside other forms of support (like medication, therapy etc). However, choice is crucial.

Some people feel that they have so much going on in their own lives that hearing other people’s experiences is too much and will make things worse. This is a valid fear. For this reason, some people prefer individual peer support rather than group options. Others find professional support more helpful.

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