Peer specialists serve as positive role models through the lens of their lived experience. The peer support relationship is grounded in the commonalities between the peer specialist and the client. They find common ground in the issues and challenges they face (or their family members have faced) as persons with behavioral health disorders, including stigma, loss of relationships, employment challenges and other issues. The success of one person’s recovery experience allows that person to be an effective mentor to someone undergoing a similar journey.
Peer specialists should have attained and maintained a level of recovery that offers a reasonable expectation of stability and reliability. They have likely gained a range of successful recovery experiences which they may draw from in the peer support relationship. In their peer support work, the peer they are supporting can be inspired by hearing the truth, hope, and possibilities embedded in the recovery story.
When used appropriately, story-telling or self-disclosure:
- Creates a climate of mutuality in peer support relationships.
- Fosters trust between peer support providers and the persons they are serving.
- Instills hope that things can change—that life can get better.
Module 3 Reflections Activity: Telling Your Recovery Story
REFLECTION: What have you learned about yourself and your recovery that you could share to inspire others working on their own recovery?
Do you have a plan for how you would you communicate your recovery story to others?
Note: This activity is for reflection only and does not need to be submitted along with your workbook.
The idea and act of sharing stories may seem fairly straightforward. But those who have experience sharing their stories have found that there are many issues to consider. Plus, there are skills and strategies that need to be developed in order to tell the story effectively.
While there are many benefits to sharing your personal recovery story, it is important to carefully consider the potential impact of your message on the person you are serving, as well the effects of self-disclosure on your personal well-being. Even with the best intentions, personal testimonies can have unintended consequences. Below are ideas that can help you present your story in a useful and responsible way. These same strategies can be applied as you assist your clients in creating and sharing their personal recovery stories.
Putting Your Story in the “Best Light”
Some story writers tend to focus on the illness aspect of the recovery story. There are pros and cons, and risks associated with using an illness focus.
|Focuses on the impact of diagnosis.||Promotes a kind of connectedness—Shows you have “been there.”|
|Features the disabling effect of the diagnosis.||Shows understanding about what another person is going through.|
|Limits the conversation to the sharing of war stories related to the illness.||Promotes empathy.|
|Promotes the reliving of difficult times.|
|Supports thinking of life as limited.|
|Lends to a pervasive hopelessness—the belief that this is the way life will always be.|
|Illness Story Risks:
· May keep the person stuck in thinking of him/herself as being sick.
· Person hearing the illness story may believe the illness story is not as bad as his/her own story.
A positive recovery focus is recommended for the story. This type of focus is best because it:
- • Focuses on change as being possible.
• Highlights an individual’s strengths.
• Promotes health and wellness.
• Features overcoming barriers.
• Supports the sharing of what has worked for you in overcoming challenges and maintaining your wellness.
The positive focus also has many benefits, but also has some associated risks.
|Supports recovery—Change is possible.|
|Shows recovery as a process—It is non-linear.|
|Promotes and instills hope.|
|Recovery Story Risks: