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VISN 1 MIRECC Education Products: Peer Support

Return to VISN 1 New England MIRECC Education Products page 

Peer Support

Peer Specialist Toolkit: Implementing Peer Support Services in VHA
Contact: Patricia Sweeney, Psy.D., CPRP (Patricia.Sweeney@va.gov)

Peer specialists (PSs) are VHA employees in recovery from mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders who help other Veterans to successfully engage in mental health and substance use treatment services. The toolkit provides a definition of the PS role, including approved position descriptions, a systematic approach for the integration of PSs onto clinical teams, information about training and supervising PSs, and information about other resources. It is intended to help VHA medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics with the implementation of peer support services at their facilities. The toolkit is a collaborative project between the VISN 1 New England MIRECC Peer Education Center and the VISN 4 MIRECC Peer Resource Center. It can be found downloaded from the following link: http://www.mirecc.va.gov/visn4/peer_specialist_toolkit.asp.

Vet-to-Vet Program
Contact: Patricia Sweeney, Psy.D., CPRP (Patricia.Sweeney@va.gov

Vet-to-Vet is a voluntary peer support group model that was developed by Moe Armstrong, a Veteran and well-recognized leader in the national peer support movement. The Vet-to-Vet groups are facilitated by trained peer educators who are Veterans. The groups operate in VHA hospitals, community outpatient centers, shelters, and other community sites across the United States. Vet-to-Vet has an educational focus, and the groups follow a read-and-discuss format with recommended reading materials related to recovery. The six topic areas for reading and discussion include: Disability Awareness; Disability Pride; Recovery Workshop; Writers’ Meeting; Wellness; and Mental Illness Anonymous. In addition to collaborating in the development of the original Vet-to-Vet materials and studying the program, the VISN 1 New England MIRECC continues to provide ongoing consultation and basic administrative support for the monthly national Vet-to-Vet teleconference. The Vet-to-Vet Training Manual, Peer Facilitators Manual, and other resources can be downloaded directly from http://www.vet2vetusa.org/Materials/ForFacilitators/tabid/67/Default.aspx.

New England MIRECC Peer Education Center
Contact: Patricia Sweeney, Psy.D., CPRP (Patricia.Sweeney@va.gov)

As the VA health care system began hiring peer specialists, many questions arose regarding the peer specialists’ roles, responsibilities, and types of training that they require for their roles in VHA. Since 2008, the New England MIRECC Peer Education Center has been offering free monthly seminars and workshops for Veterans who want to become peer specialists as well as Veterans who are currently providing paid or volunteer peer support services within the VA New England Healthcare System (VISN 1). The trainings focus on topics directly related to the competencies required of VHA peer specialists. Introductory Track sessions focus on topics for Veterans who want to become peer specialists and those who are new VHA peer specialists. Continuing Education Track sessions target more seasoned VHA peer specialists and focus on knowledge and skill areas that will support them in their current roles and ongoing professional development. The seminars and workshops are facilitated by clinicians and peer specialists, and continuing education credits are awarded to all peer support training participants. Here is a sample of some of the training offerings from the New England MIRECC Peer Education Center that include downloadable materials:

Introduction to Effective Communication Skills for Peer Specialists in VHA: This seminar reviews the basic skills associated with effective communication as a peer specialist. It addresses how communication is influenced by culture, contextual factors, and personal factors. The seminar also discusses how communication changes depending on use of technology and the rules that peer specialists in VHA need to know about using electronic communication tools. The downloadable presentation materials include a PowerPoint presentation and role play practice exercise.
Introduction to Effective Communication Skills PowerPoint Presentation
Introduction to Effective Communication Skills Practice Exercise

Effective Communication Skills--Key to Success in a Peer Specialist’s Work on an Interdisciplinary Team: This seminar discusses strategies that VHA peer specialists can use to optimize their effectiveness in their roles as interdisciplinary team members. The session focuses on how to use communication styles that promote advocacy and action steps while engaging colleagues in a collaborative manner.
Effective Communication Skills in a Peer Specialist Work on an Interdisciplinary Team PowerPoint Presentation

Confidentiality and Peer Support Services in VHA: This seminar focuses on discussing strategies to maintain confidentiality, why maintaining confidentiality is important in peer support relationships, limitations of confidentiality, and guidelines for what to do in challenging situations where an issue of confidentiality is at stake. The seminar addresses how to manage issues of confidentiality in face-to-face interactions as well as communications via phone, email, and social media. The downloadable presentation materials include a PowerPoint presentation and vignettes for group discussion.
Confidentiality and Peer Support Services in VHA PowerPoint Presentation
Confidentiality and Peer Support Services in VHA Vignettes

Disengaging from Professional Peer Support Relationships: This seminar discusses the necessity of ending professional peer support relationships and when and how VHA peer specialists can engage in the ending process with Veterans for whom they are providing peer support services.
Disengaging from Professional Peer Support Relationships PowerPoint Presentation

Making Effective Use of Your Personal Recovery Story in Professional Peer Support Relationships: This seminar discusses the important role of peer specialists’ self-disclosure in providing peer support services in VHA. It distinguishes between personal illness stories and recovery stories and outlines the benefits and risks associated with sharing either a personal illness story or recovery story. It also discusses components of an effective personal recovery story and how to determine the relevant parts of the personal recovery experience to share in different situations. The downloadable presentation materials include a PowerPoint presentation and three activities.
Making Effective Use of Your Recovery Story in Professional Peer Support PowerPoint Presentation
Making Effective Use of Your Recovery Story in Professional Peer Support 1st Activity
Making Effective Use of Your Recovery Story in Professional Peer Support 2nd Activity
Making Effective Use of Your Recovery Story in Professional Peer Support 3rd Activity

Navigating Boundaries in VHA Peer Support Services: This seminar discusses the importance of maintaining appropriate interpersonal boundaries and what boundaries look like when VHA peer specialists interact with Veterans, other peer specialists, and clinical staff members. The downloadable presentation materials include a PowerPoint presentation and vignettes for group discussion.
Navigating Boundaries in VHA Peer Support Services PowerPoint Presentation
Navigating Boundaries in VHA Peer Support Services Vignettes

Part I of Peer Support Group Facilitation Skills for Peer Specialists in VHA: This workshop focuses on tips and guidelines for planning peer support groups and being a successful group facilitator. Participants have opportunities to practice their group facilitation skills and obtain feedback. The downloadable presentation materials include a PowerPoint presentation, group practice exercise, and practice exercise feedback sheet.
Part I of Peer Support Group Facilitation Skills PowerPoint Presentation
Part I of Peer Support Group Facilitation Skills Practice Exercise
Part I of Peer Support Group Facilitation Skills Exercise Feedback Sheet

Part II of Peer Support Group Facilitation Skills—Dealing with Challenges in Groups in VHA: This workshop focuses on how to manage crises and disruptions in peer support groups and be a successful group facilitator. Participants have opportunities to practice their group facilitation skills and obtain feedback. The downloadable presentation materials include a PowerPoint presentation, role play activities, group practice exercise, and practice exercise feedback sheet.
Part II of Peer Support Group Facilitation Skills PowerPoint Presentation
Part II of Peer Support Group Facilitation Skills Role Plays
Part II of Peer Support Group Facilitation Skills Practice Exercise
Part II of Peer Support Group Facilitation Skills Exercise Feedback Sheet

Promoting Growth and Leadership in VHA Peer Specialist Professional Development: Continuing Education and Participation in Organizational Activities: This seminar focuses discussion on peer specialists’ ongoing professional development throughout pursuit of continuing education and seeking opportunities to facilitate presentations and participate in organizational workgroups in and outside of VHA. The seminar also includes discussion about developing a professional development plan and establishing ongoing dialogue about it with a mentor. The downloadable presentation materials include a PowerPoint presentation and practice exercise.
Promoting Peer Specialist Professional Development PowerPoint Presentation
Promoting Peer Specialist Professional Development Exercise

Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Peer Support: This seminar discusses fundamental components of recovery that are related to recovery from mental health and/or substance use conditions. Differences between the medical model and recovery model approaches to health care services are noted. The seminar focuses discussion on the principles and practices of psychiatric rehabilitation (PSR) used within the recovery model. It describes who peer specialists are and what they do in VHA health care services and explains peer specialists’ roles in PSR services and the recovery process for Veteran health care service users.
Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Peer Support PowerPoint Presentation

Understanding Mental Health Conditions from a Recovery Perspective: This seminar discusses origins and stages of impact of mental health issues as well as the medical model and psychiatric rehabilitation approaches to understanding assessment and treatment of mental health issues. Also, interventions are identified that VHA peer specialists can use when working with Veterans experiencing mental health-related challenges. The downloadable presentation materials include a PowerPoint presentation and vignettes for group discussion.
Understanding Mental Health Conditions from Recovery Perspective PowerPoint Presentation
Understanding Mental Health Conditions from Recovery Perspective Vignettes

Walking the Tightrope Between Helping Others and Self-Care: This workshop defines compassion fatigue and burnout and discusses warning signs for peer specialists and other health care professionals. Strategies that the workshop participants can use to promote their own resilience and personal wellness are explored.
Walking the Tightrope Between Helping Others and Self-Care PowerPoint Presentation

Contact

Mehmet Sofuoglu, M.D., Ph.D.
Director
203-937-4809
Mehmet.Sofuoglu@va.gov

Patricia Sweeney, Psy.D., CPRP
Director for Education
781-687-3015
Patricia.Sweeney@va.gov

Richard Carson, LCSW
Administrative Officer
203-932-5711 Ext. 4338
Richard.Carson@va.gov

Ilan Harpaz-Rotem, Ph.D.
Co-Director for MIRECC Fellowship Program
203-932-5711 Ext. 2599
Ilan.Harpaz-Rotem@va.gov

Suzanne Decker, Ph.D.
Co-Director for MIRECC Fellowship Program
203-932-5711 Ext. 7425
Suzanne.Decker@va.gov