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Peer Support to Enhance Personal Wholeness


Emerging Standards of Peer Support

by Dr. Shery Mead, Mount Holyoak College

[her website]

Note: Dr. Mead's work is excellent for laying the groundwork for your own personal support network. These Standards she presents are valuable parts of the kind of support structure that I would like to encourage for every person. Sometimes these relationships can be found within a religious institution, or secular groups of various kinds. You may want to create your own peer support network.


Shortcuts to key aspects of Dr. Mead's peer support structure as explained below:










Standard:  Peer support promotes CRITICAL LEARNING and the re-naming of experiences.

Examples of indicators include:

Realizing you are not crazy.

Understanding that your emotional distress is an appropriate response.

Redefining your roles.

Taking power in relationships.

Developing wellness strategies.



Standard: The culture of peer support provides a sense of COMMUNITY.

Examples of indicators include:

You are not told what you have to do.

Validation and witnessing is more important than fixing.

Acceptance for where a person is at.

A sense of kindredship in sharing similar experiences.

An atmosphere of hope and celebration.

Members are both leaders and followers.

A place to make friends and to know you are not alone.

A place to be yourself.


Standard: There is great FLEXIBILITY in the kinds of support provided by peers.

Examples of indicators include:

Program is experienced as a place to stretch your comfort zone.

Range of possibilities explored to keep people included.

Work with people around their unique preferences and needs.

Conflict or tension is defined as an opportunity.

Encouragement is given to share talents and expertise.


Standard: Peer support activities, meetings and conversations are INSTRUCTIVE.

Examples of indicators include:

Atmosphere promotes trusting oneself to figure things out.

Collective-problem solving is encouraged.

Alternative healing strategies are encouraged.

Genuine and inclusive feedback provided.

Conversation is respectful.

Conflict or tension is defined as an opportunity.

There is a presence of potent activities.

Activities and people are interesting.

Encouragement is given to share talents and expertise.

People are invited along to participate in a variety of ways.

Atmosphere promotes trusting oneself to figure things out.

There is value in experience and common wisdom.

Every person is a teacher and a learner.


Standard: There is MUTUAL RESPONSIBILITY across peer relationships.

Examples of indicators include:

All persons should be considered equal.

People are present when they are the subject of conversation.

Everyone has something valuable to share.

Building of honest relationships that are essential to healing

Taking charge of your daily routine and affairs.

You are expected to go forward in your process.

Fancy language and labeling practices carry little value.

You are expected to be honest with yourself and others.


Standard: Peer support involves sophisticated levels of SAFETY.

Examples of indicators include:

There is compassion.

Looking out for each other.

What safety means in a relationship is negotiated.

Experienced as a safe place to be yourself.

Provided the 'tools', education, and knowledge to respond.

There are consequences for making others feel unsafe.

Policies and procedures pertaining to safety are discussed.

Emotional safety and validation in being heard.

Freedom of expression.

Feeling like you are not being judged.

Knowing that you don't have to have all the answers.

An appreciation for 'the long haul' of the healing process.

Being able to disclose.


Standard: Peer support is being clear about and SETTING LIMITS.

Examples of indicators include:

Respecting the confidentiality of the community.

Parameters of 'what is tolerable dissonance' within the community are negotiated.

Composition of the community is taken into consideration when defining limits.

Expected to reflect upon and articulate personal limits.

Understanding that limits will change and be redefined as the learning process unfolds.

Levels of intimacy vary from individual to individual and require acknowledgement.

Being clear about what you can and cannot do and why this.