Peer support and mutual self-helpThese are integral to the organizational and service delivery approach and are understood as a key vehicle for building trust, establishing safety, and empowerment.*
My name is Tony Vezina, and I am the Executive Director of 4D Recovery, a Peer-Run Recovery Organization helping young people 18-35 overcome addiction. One key principle of trauma-informed care (TIC) is “peer support and mutual self-help.” In this blog, I will hone in on 4D’s peer-service goals and how they align.
First, let me define what a peer is in my own words: We, as peers, are people recovering from addiction—or mental health—who use our experience, strength, and hope coupled with some professional training to help others recover. At 4D, our model of peer service is recovery mentoring. In essence, we are hustlers for recovery: we sell it to people; we wear it; we market it; and when people want it—we help them get it, free of charge.
4D is a business operating inside an economic market. I mention this because delivering service operates from, and gravitates towards revenue sources. This can be good and bad depending on the nature of the funding. During my time with 4D, I have exerted immense energy towards developing funding elements that support our service paradigm, and I am hopeful for the future as many other peer-proponents push towards similar funding goals.
There is a myriad of reasons 4D’s current funding supports our organization in providing trauma-informed care, I will cover a few core examples below. Trauma-informed care can be defined as “[…] a strengths-based framework that is grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma, that emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both providers and survivors, and that creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.” (Hopper, Bassuk, & Olivet, 2010). There exists a prevalent variance in the definition of TIC, but I really like this one as it underscores the importance of trauma-informed funding structures that promote TIC.
How 4D Funding Promotes TIC
Service engagement with a peer mentor at 4D does not require a clinical assessment—it requires a self-assessment. This allows individuals who would like peer support and mutual aid to initiate, direct, and exit the service at their choosing. This service participation structure at 4D supports in building trust, establishing safety, and empowering peer-service clients because the client is in control of the situation. In this type of funding, there is no rush to diagnose for certain billing types or push clients through a billing structure for-profit and organizational viability. The mentor and the client just move along at the client’s pace.
Additionally, building trust with someone often takes time and depends on various factors like worldview, past experiences, and their current level of motivation to change. The current funding at 4D does not require a client to move along a service delivery track where they complete various cookie-cutter objectives set by the agency until meeting the requirements for graduation. When a person feels that a mentor is strictly available to support them at their own pace, it can help provide the space and time needed to create rapport.
Establishing safety and creating rapport are closely related—often building off one another. There are many factors in establishing safety with clients: effective communication, addressing bias (implicit/explicit), the environment where service is happening, etc. From a service delivery lens, when a client knows they are not being charged and the service is unlimited, they tend to feel the provider authentically has their best interest at heart. At 4D, young people walk in the door wanting help in recovering from addiction and they can get it, 365 days a year, 100% cost-free. There is no: “wait, what insurance do you have,” “well, we do have a sliding scale,” “let’s set up a payment plan,” or “maybe you qualify for a scholarship.” Our funding structure support clients in feeling the service is accessible for the long haul, giving folx the time they need to energize their recovery.
Empowering people is at the foundation of our mission at 4D. And our funding allows us to do this. We have the time needed to help young people accomplish three things: efficacy, actualization, and autonomy.
As a young person enters our peer services, we begin helping them to establish recovery goals. These goals can vary, but in general, they are focused on leading more healthy lives. I have helped teens develop goals for rap careers and strippers find ways to be safe while working in an anti-recovery employment environment. As people set and achieve goals, they begin to develop efficacy—they start believing in themselves. In addition, throughout the goal accomplishing process, the client and their mentor explore their skills, abilities, and areas of improvement. As people paint a clear picture of themselves, they actualize the internal assets that can support them in accomplishing their goals. Lastly, mentors work with people to become autonomous in their recovery by developing a lifestyle, also known as a recovery program.
If you boil it down, 4D mentors just help people realize what they already have and access the recovery-based resources around them to generate success in their lives. In my 20 years of experience of drug use and recovery, I have found that people with addiction often lose themselves in the substances; the alcohol, the drugs, and the lifestyle rob them of their self-esteem and spirit. 4D is the shit because it employs recovering people who have found themselves and can lead others towards liberation and light…in a trauma-informed fashion, of course.
As long as I am working in peer services, I will fight for funding that drives trauma-informed, individualized, and accessible service delivery so that clients may be empowered to realize their highest self.
I am not special; I am just passing along what was freely given to me by recovering people.