In my current job I can refer to a great resource in the form of a peer/family advocate. She mainly assists parents in educational issues but covers a lot of ground. Myself and the families that I work with anecdotally feel very supported by this kind of service. Is there evidence that backs this up?
Radigan, Wang, Chen, and Xian (2014) demonstrate how peer/family advocates can be helpful….
“A greater proportion of youth or caregivers with access to peer advocates compared to those without access responded positively on the satisfaction domains of access to services, appropriateness of services, participation in services and overall/global satisfaction. Access to peer advocates was also positively associated with agreement on the psychotropic medication comprehension domain for youth and on perceptions of child functioning and social connectedness for caregivers compared to those without access. This study adds to the growing understanding of the important role peer advocates play in engaging youth with mental health needs and their caregivers in mental health services.”
Here is why I think it works… There is a level of trust when a parent advocate says, “I know how it is.” As a clinician I can say this but it just does not seem to matter. They need another person to “come along side with” and develop a more subjective relationship with. It also works to have someone else to be objective. Sometimes the peer advocate can “split the difference” between the parent and other parties (clinicians, schools, probations etc). They can be a part of the team to problem solve conflicts. In the eyes of our client, the peer may be the “expert,” not us. Thinking critically, this is something that clinicians should try to mirror. That notion of being in a relationship but also being an expert at the same time.
Why do you think peer supports work?
This is a service that is in high demand in my service area. On a macro level I would encourage other organizations, policy makers, and agency leaders to consider this as in intervention. Look at this article and other references to argue that peer advocacy/support can be a powerful adjunct to already existing treatment.
Radigan, M., Wang, R.,Chen, Y., & Xiang, J. (2014). Youth and caregiver access to peer advocates and satisfaction with mental health services. Community Mental Health Journal, 50(2). Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10597-014-9709-8.
link to article: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10597-014-9709-8
a musical interlude by the Beatles to inspire you 🙂 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBDF04fQKtQ