square bulletThe Peer Support Principle

From Eva Dech, International Trainer with Intentional Peer Support, LLC

Trauma Informed Application of the Term “Peer Support”

In SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma Informed Approach , six principles are identified as fundamental and key to a trauma informed approach. These principles, one of which is peer support, are widely referenced throughout work related to trauma informed care (TIC). While SAMHSA does a great job centering insights and wisdom of survivors of traumatic experiences in the referenced piece, these insights can sometimes get lost in translation.

The use of peer support in the application of trauma informed approaches is often conflated with organizational affinity groups in which people offer support to one another based on shared experiences. While this is fantastic for organizational culture and creating spaces where relationships and connections can be fostered, naming this practice “peer support” can have unintentional impacts.

“The term ‘peers’ refers to individuals with lived experiences of trauma…” (SAMSHA, 2014, p. 11). While many people in the workforce experience trauma, adversity, and toxic stress, it is imperative that the work of TIC centers, elevates, and promotes survivor voices. In the spirit of resisting retraumatization, champions of TIC should know the hard-fought history of the peer movement and why the continued challenges of co-optation and erasure are such pressing matters to many.

Register for June Event: Centering Survivor Wisdom Through the Principles of Peer Support

Eva Dech, a long time human rights activist and trainer, has spent the majority of her life working at the intersections of the Survivor/X-Patient Liberation Movement and the Disability Independent Living Movement. This June, Eva will dive deeper into the history of peer support while also inviting advocates for trauma informed approaches into areas of potential growth.

Join us for Centering Survivor Wisdom Through the Principles of Peer Support.
Check back soon for the date and logistics of this upcoming event!

Topics we will explore together include:

  • The history and values of survivor movements
  • Co-optation of peer support and survivor knowledge
  • The impact of language and the right to reclamation
  • Invitations to shift perspectives
  • The role of relationships and mutual support

More About Eva:

Eva Dech (She/They) is a queer, neurodivergent human rights activist, community organizer, international trainer, and psychiatric survivor.

Eva has a rich understanding of systemic and individual violence, based on her lived experience of childhood trauma, institutionalization and re-traumatization. She envisions communities and systems that honor our humanity, dignity and agency. Eva focuses on creating alternatives to carceral mental health systems that are community-based, trauma responsive, and mutually supportive.

A leader of the youth empowerment movement thirty years ago, she founded one of the first youth-to-youth peer support and advocacy groups, thus playing a key role in creating her local county’s MH system of care which is a recognized national model for SAMHSA SOC grant communities.

Eva’s work over the past three decades includes local, statewide, and national program development and training and implementation of peer run, trauma informed peer support services. She advocated within the mental health, juvenile justice, special education, and foster care systems, and served on local, state and national advisory boards.

Eva Dech has been a national and international trainer with Intentional Peer Support, LLC since 2014. She has also been a training manager and member of the management team, including curriculum development.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.