Advocacy Strategies Copy

Advocacy Strategies for Reaching a Solution

Let’s look at some informal advocacy strategies that can help assure there is a successful outcome for the client and the peer specialist.

Prepare yourself. There are several ways to prepare yourself. First, plan ahead of time what points you need to make. Practice with the help of friends, tape recorders, or mirrors if you feel unsure of yourself. Secondly, be aware of your personal sensitivities. Notice the kinds of comments or actions by others that you can predict will upset or anger you. Ask yourself what you hope will not happen in a meeting (because it probably will). Many peer advocates say they lose focus and effectiveness when certain things happen because they become uncomfortable or upset. In order not to be surprised and thrown off balance, make note of the things you hope will not happen, that are likely to upset you, and then just check them off when they happen. Exhale. Take a short break. Take care of yourself.

Know the players. Learn who is involved in making decisions, what each person’s role and responsibilities are. Know who has the authority to make decisions and make contact with the right person. If there is an order of authority, respect it. However, if you are not satisfied at one level, inform that person that while you appreciate their time or help so far, you will be contacting another person as well. There will be people along the advocacy path whom you might not enjoy or who do not offer the help you want. This should not dissuade you from advocating, but remind you that you can respectfully disagree.

Use questions to invite discussion. People who disagree tend to argue or be silenced by someone else’s position. One of the best ways to avoid becoming locked into opposing positions is to ask questions. When you feel ready to pounce or withdraw, ask a question instead. Asking questions does not mean that you are giving in; it means that you are willing to understand another perspective. Be curious. The better you understand what someone else is and is not considering the more able you will be to work with the information.

Focus. Advocacy is about someone’s life. Keep the focus of discussion on the relevant person. Connect suggestions to what is known about a specific person. Something that might be a good idea for one person might not be a good idea for another.

Individualize. Represent the person you are advocating for in terms of what the person values, what is unique about their circumstances, etc. Avoid the short cut of using diagnostic labels to make support or program decisions.

Ask for what you want. Be brief and concise. Say what you need to say as clearly and with as few words as possible. Give only the information that the other person needs. Don’t confuse them with things they don’t need to know. State your concern and how you want things changed.

Document. Keep a written record of your requests and the decisions that are made before leaving meetings. Document your understanding of what will be done next, who will be responsible, and how much time will be taken. Follow verbal exchanges in person or on the phone with memos reflecting your understanding of things.

Actively participate. Most advocacy is ongoing. If you want a particular topic brought up, or time to speak at a meeting, contact the person who leads the meetings you attend so that these requests can be made part of the agenda. Ask for and provide explanations and examples when you want to achieve more clarity. If you believe you are not getting anywhere, tell the other person that you wish to pursue your issues further. Determine if there is a supervisor or someone else you can contact.

Be selective about the issues you challenge. What is the advocacy issue you want to pursue? When there is disagreement about methods, remember that there is always more than one way to achieve a desired outcome. Consider trying something other than your first choice (or asking someone else to try something). Unless it is harmful to do so, be flexible.

Video: Margaret Neale: Negotiating (more of) What You Want Anywhere with Anyone (4:35 min.)

Module 6 Activity: Case Scenario – Planning for Advocacy Actions

Effective peer advocacy requires building and practicing skills to help you feel comfortable and confident in reaching identified advocacy goals. This will likely involve consultation with your supervisor or multidisciplinary team.

In this activity you have the opportunity to practice some of the front-end planning skills that this course has just presented. Consider the following scenario.

Case Scenario: Nicki has been in the hospital for the last week due to an infection related to her HIV condition. She was living in a women’s shelter prior to her hospitalization because her partner kicked her out of the house when she relapsed and returned to daily alcohol abuse. Nicki plans to return to the shelter until she can find housing, however, she believes she has been there too long and is being discriminated against by the housing authority due to being HIV positive. You are assigned as her peer advocate. She needs a longer-term housing solution. Nicki says she would like your assistance in helping her get to the bottom of the housing situation and she needs emergency income assistance. She also knows she needs to return to a substance abuse treatment program for her drinking problems. She feels overwhelmed with all of the issues that she needs to address. She doesn’t know where to begin or where to go. She has turned to you for support.

Instructions: Download the activity sheet at the link below and answer these questions.  After you complete this sheet, continue in the course to review potential actions. Note: This activity is for reflection only and does not need to be submitted along with your workbook. 

Nicki’s case is complicated. You have to get prepared to be her advocate. Think about:

  • What additional information do you need?
  • Where can you get more information that can help strategize how to move forward?
  • What outcome(s) does Nicki want to achieve?
  • What rules might govern this situation?
  • Who might some of the key players be?

Download the Activity Worksheet Now


  • What additional information do you need?
    • First and foremost, you need to get a better understanding of Nicki’s health status since she is in the hospital. This information may not be available as it is confidential and protected. Nicki would have to consent to your acquiring this type of information. At the very least, getting an understanding of what she needs for health and safety after leaving the hospital.
    • You need to know more about Nicki, from Nicki.
    • If she has not had an assessment for her substance use, this will need to be done to determine what level of care is best for her treatment.
    • You also need to know her rights as a person with HIV. Discrimination may occur when an entity excludes an individual with HIV from participating in a service or denies the individual a benefit.
    • You will need to know if the women’s shelter will take her back and what their staff have done to assist in finding her more permanent housing and meeting other needs.
  • Where can you get more information that can help strategize how to move forward?
    • You need to consult with your supervisor and/or the multidisciplinary team where you work.
    • You could gather information from legal services without disclosing confidential client information.
    • You can search for information on the Internet to help you learn more about civil rights for persons with HIV.
    • You can gather information about housing options in your community, such as supported housing programs. Depending upon the recommendations for treatment for Nicki’s substance use disorder, you could research residential treatment programs that serve the special needs of women.
  • What outcome(s) does Nicki want to achieve?
    • Nicki has many outcomes she wants to achieve. It will be necessary to help her prioritize needs based on safety and health concerns first. Due to the complexity of her case, you will likely need to work with a multidisciplinary team who can assist Nicki in breaking down the steps that will need to be taken to help with her many needs.
  • What rules govern this situation?
    • You will need to consult with your team or supervisor about civil rights laws and protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Discrimination may or may not be taking place, but knowing the laws is important.
    • You will need to know the laws governing protection of information about a person’s HIV status (federal and state). For example, a health care professional may only disclose a patient’s HIV status to other health care professionals with the patient’s consent.
  • Who might some of the key players be?
    • The women’s shelter
    • The Housing Authority
    • Nicki’s doctor
    • Her partner (perhaps, if desired and appropriate)
    • An attorney
    • Person from the agency that handles economic assistance