All Kinds of News for September 11, 2019
Mutual or peer support is a long-standing, inherent practice in many mental health programs. Connections among clients beyond therapy group meetings often will lead to increased hope, engagement, empathy, social connectivity, better health, and overall functioning.¹ Delivered properly, this “service” compliments the work of the objective professionals and offers clients an insiders’ level of understanding and collegiality that can have a profound impact.²
“I remember saying it all the time when I worked in wilderness, that clients would have two groups during their stay with us. The group that cared for them in the beginning, and then the group that they cared for prior to transitioning on,” recalls Onward Transitions Chief Clinician Darrell Fraize, M.Ed., LCPC, LADC. “I’ve seen this happen in residential treatment as well, where the more seasoned members take it upon themselves to help out the folks who are new,” he adds. Onward Transitions experienced a cohort of six new members last spring who benefited from this process, and are now ready to take their turn and pay it forward, as new members move to Portland, ME and join the program.
During a recent group counseling session about transitions, members recalled the challenges they experienced early on and how their peers helped them to better adjust to their new, adopted city. They reported both a readiness and a desire to help other emerging adults adjust to the complexities of settling into their new space and moving forward with their goals. Current members recalled how staff and peers alike helped them work through some of the following challenges;
- Going from a more structured environment like primary care to managing their own schedule. Or, in contrast, going beyond college or outpatient counseling and entering into a therapeutic community for the first time.
- Putting the “heavy lifting” of therapy into practice in live, real-world scenarios.
- Engaging in a more active and robust face-to-face social life.
- Learning to manage the challenges of becoming a student again.
- Coping with the stress of applying for and maintaining a job.
- Relying less on communicating with parents in their everyday decision-making.
- Taking on a more developmentally-appropriate role in budgeting for their lives and paying the bills they create.
- Normalizing the “buyer’s remorse” effect of making the big decision to move and to invest time and resources in this next step.
- Exhibiting patience with adult-world processes, like setting up a primary care physician and waiting for WiFi and cable technicians.
“Paying it forward,” Fraize chuckles. “It’s not just for the helping professionals in our world. Our clients way more often than not want to find a way to give back, and this is one way that they are truly well-equipped to do it.”
¹BRSS TACS, (2012) Equipping Behavioral Health Systems & Authorities to Promote Peer Specialist/Peer Recovery Coaching Services, SAMHSA Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale. https://www.nasmhpd.org/sites/default/files/NASMHPD%20Housing_Final%20Submission.pdf
About Onward Transitions
Onward Transitions (OT) in Portland, ME is a small, independent, owner-operated program for bright, motivated, emerging adults in the final stages of learning to live on their own. OT supports actual sustainable independent living and autonomy from two city locations. Participants (members) ages 18-29 never live with us; they live in their own apartments, scattered throughout the city. Members' challenges include anxiety, depression and executive functioning.