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Community & Behavioral Health | Recovery | Social Change


Changing the Conversation

Making the Case for Peer Providers

04/6/17 03:47 PM | Gloria Dickerson | Recovery


Once a person is assigned a stigmatizing label, they are often seen as “less than” and in need of fixing for the remainder of their lives. Members of the larger society often see individual recovery as only partially effective or non-existent. These erroneous conclusions do not go away--no matter how successful or how accomplished the individual may be. These views can be mitigated by the inclusion of peer providers in various key roles.

Peer providers help employers, colleagues, other peers, and services users by example. They use their recovery experiences to make systems of care more focused on the needs of individuals. Peer providers increase the effectiveness of efforts to eliminate stigma in medical and behavioral health care settings.

As peers request and are granted reasonable accommodations and function with competence and compassion, the workplace is challenged to routinely meet individual needs and preferences. Peer providers equalize the playing field for all peers and personnel as they raise awareness about the need to support the strengths, rights, differences, and dignity of people in recovery. Peer providers also highlight the importance of providing fair and equitable treatment to all people in systems of care. For these reasons, we need to expand the roles of peer providers in all aspects of health care. This will help fight stigma and restore dignity to people who live with “stigmatize-able identities.” Read more.

Peer providers add valuable and unique support to others who are in recovery and are working to build a satisfying life. However, their efforts are often complicated because of the stigma associated with some of their circumstances. Peer providers, by their presence, are examples of how to live with challenges, do honorable work that gives back to others, and successfully integrate into health care settings. They demonstrate that with supports and skills, people can be successful.

The quality of work performed by peer providers is proof that peers have a unique and valuable place in health care settings. Peer providers are reducing stigma and increasing the likelihood that each person is valued for their uniqueness. We need more peer-providers to reduce stigma.

Hear more about integrating peers into service delivery models from a t3 podcast with Ellen Bassuk, Justine Hanson, and Jeff Olivet:

Listen Here

Image by milena mihaylova (CC by 2.0).

Gloria Dickerson

Written by Gloria Dickerson

Gloria Dickerson is a Recovery Specialist at the Center for Social Innovation. Her expertise in recovery derives from academic training and lived experience of recovery from trauma, mental illness, and homelessness. Gloria received a B.S. from Tufts University and has completed master’s level studies in Instructional Design and Psychiatric Rehabilitation.