This article reports in some detail the preparation, selection, training, and support of a group of peer support workers recruited to provide support alongside conventional aftercare to people discharged from acute psychiatric units in London, England; and the findings of an evaluation of the training and support provided. It provides learning for others planning training for peer support.
The overall view of the training by those who went on to work as Peer Support Workers was that it was a valuable, challenging, yet positive experience that provided them with a good preparation for the role.
Key learning from the process was that
- the peer support workers believed they could have been better prepared for the strength of emotional involvement and feelings they would have for their peers and in particular, in regard to ending the support relationship.
- the peer support workers felt insufficiently prepared for the involvement and influence of family members and dynamics and would have welcomed more ongoing training and development as they undertook the role.
- the strength of the supervision and regular support and supervision was valued greatly and seen as important in ensuring the peer support work was effective and safe for all parties.
- mental health nurses may have a significant role to play in the further development of peer support roles. Together, mental health nurses and Peer Support Workers can discuss how to best work collaboratively with service users and focus on recovery and strengths.