Intentional Peer Support Principles Applied during COVID-19
From Danielle Grondin, Director of Training & Consulting, FolkTime and Samantha Buchholz, MSW Intern, FolkTime
Intentional Peer Support (IPS) is a relational framework developed in the 1990s by Shery Mead and others who were active in the consumer/survivor/x-patient movement. It has evolved over the years while engaging many people in the work of transformative, mutually responsible relationships. The formation of IPS’s Principles and Tasks gives gravity to our ideals, distilling the extensive core content down to digestible pieces that we can hold on to, even in the midst of uncertain times. This framework is generally evoked when someone may be experiencing intense emotions or psychological distress, yet it proves useful in many situations and relationships. For these reasons, we applied the framework into the context we are collectively navigating in these COVID-19 circumstances.
Many people are now facing new emotional landscapes and intensified feelings, some for their first time. For people with lived experience with mental health challenges, these feelings might be familiar territory. Trustworthy relationships can make all the difference and knowing we are not alone in our struggles offers an opportunity to validate and normalize each other’s responses to uncertainty. Establishing trust in relationships will look different for everyone. For many psychiatric survivors, the notion of safety has sometimes been weaponized against us, and in some cases, has made trust and transparency harder to access. In traditional mental health services, the focus is often on a question of whether the individual is safe. In peer relationships, we strive to shift the focus to ask, “Is our relationship safe?” Applying the Principles and Tasks of IPS can create more conducive conditions for trust to transpire in a relationship, which is often an essential ingredient in co-creating safety.