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Origins of Peer Support

Updated: Dec 3, 2019

Author Dawn Gossett


Even though peer support still has a long way to go, we must look back and appreciate just how far we have come.

By way of background, the philosophy of peer support has existed for centuries, but perhaps Thomas Jefferson described it best when he stated, “Who then can so softly bind up the wound of another as he who has felt the same wound himself?”


Today, scores of established agencies, alliances, and organizations recognize the value of peer support programs and, therefore, endorse the integration of this approach within mental health, substance use, and/or co-occurring services.

The origins of the modern techniques involved in peer support started to emerge in the mid-1970s when mental health services began evolving to reflect a more comprehensive and humane support system. Before that time, 12-step and other recovery- oriented support groups and programs for substance use had already been established and proven successful for decades. After the social changes of the sixties, former patients of mental institutions began to congregate in small groups to discuss their own experiences. Eventually, these influences led them to create their own peer-controlled alternatives and to seek government reforms that included advocacy, understanding, and recovery.


In the 1980s, the state mental health system became more receptive to employing peer workers and contracting with peer-run organizations. By the early 1990s, mental health agencies and organizations were actively appointing those in recovery to positions that directly relate with clients because of their personal and professional experiences. Since then, this unique trend has been evolving to become more well defined in its structure, while proving its worth and effectiveness as an intervention in multiple settings.


In 2003, the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health strongly endorsed the involvement of peers within the mental health system and stated that “Recovery-oriented services and supports are often successfully provided by consumers through consumer-run organizations and by consumers who work as providers in a variety of settings, such as peer-

support...”


Today, scores of established agencies, alliances, and organizations recognize the value of peer support programs and, therefore, endorse the integration of this approach within mental health, substance use, and/or co-occurring services.


As an agency founded on the principles of peer support, SC SHARE continues advocate for the advancement of peer support. Even though we still have a long way to go, we must look back and appreciate just how far we have come.


Want to learn more about becoming a peer support specialist? Check out our page Peer Support 101!

SC SHARE

1924 Barnwell Street

Columbia, SC 29201

Email: info@scshare.com

Phone: 803-739-5712

Registered Charity: 57-0936454 

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