Writing the recovery/wellness plan can be done by the client as a self-planning activity, but is more likely to be a team effort. The peer specialist partners with the client to make suggestions, shares his or her experience, and assists the client in finding his or her own recovery path, no matter how much it may differ from their own path.
Peer specialists may be called upon to perform a variety of functions in developing recovery/wellness plans, such as:
- Formulating recovery goals;
- Identifying objectives that will help meet recovery goals;
- Establishing markers to measure progress;
- Monitoring client progress and providing support so clients can stay on track; and,
- Creating emergency or back-up plans for times when things don‘t go as planned.
It’s beyond the scope of this course to detail all of the skills that are needed to execute the actions detailed above. What is important to know is that, primarily, the peer specialist supports the client in the development of a plan of action, selection of strategies, and development of skills that support long-term recovery.
The peer specialist also works with the client to assess progress – to identify and discuss what went well, what did not, what should be continued, what should not, and what new strategies, objectives, or goals might make sense. Periodically, the peer specialist must sit down with the client to ensure that the plan is manageable and still relevant to his or her needs.
Negotiating small, measurable goals allows for early success to take place. This helps foster motivation toward the next small goal. Small goals are much better than big goals; small goals can create feelings of success whereas big goals feel too difficult. In addition, as people grow in their recovery, their goals and recovery maintenance strategies will likely need to change. The peer specialist might have specific agency forms to use in monitoring progress; however, Helen Sanderson Associates in the United Kingdom offers simple to use templates for “checking-in” with clients to determine progress, capture learning, and make modifications in the recovery/wellness plan. These are available in the Resources section of this module.
- The Peer Specialist recognizes that other recovery pathways are no more or less valid than his or her own, and that s/he has an obligation to develop the knowledge and skills required to effectively support clients in pursuing their own pathways.
- The Peer Specialist identifies and builds upon the recovery capital (strengths) of clients in order to help meet their recovery goals.
- The Peer Specialist communicates clearly to clients that supporting their recovery is his or her top priority, but emphasizes that no one but the client can actually do the work of recovery.
- The Peer Specialist assists the client in the development and monitoring of a recovery plan, and achievement of strengths-based individual goals.
- The Peer Specialist helps clients understand that, step-by-step, they can get better and brings encouragement each and every time that they are making progress.
Role Modeling through Self Care
One of the greatest mistakes peer specialists can make is to assume that their work can replace the work of following their own recovery and wellness paths. While serving as a peer specialist does provide some of the same benefits as active involvement in a recovery program, it is in no way a replacement for it. Failing to faithfully follow your own recovery path does not simply put you in a hypocritical position when you suggest that clients follow their paths, it puts you and your clients at risk of relapse.
Your first responsibility as a peer specialist is to model recovery and the kind of integrity it requires. While no one is perfect at this, it’s your ongoing efforts that serve as a model for clients. In addition, taking care of you as a helping professional is critical. The deeply meaningful and valuable work you do every day also can be stressful and can deplete your emotional and physical reserves. Balancing work and life stressors with effective coping mechanisms is not always easy. However, it should not be considered as something that is just “nice to do,” but is an essential part of your personal and professional identity. The Workbook activity for this module uses self-examination and personal planning tasks to help you discover how you are doing within the wellness dimensions.
- The Peer Specialist serves as a role-model by actively working on his or her recovery plan as well as making strides in personal wellness behaviors.
- The Peer Specialist continually assesses his or her work/life balance to avoid or manage stressful situations.