How Do You Know? You’re Not Even a Peer

by Howard Diamond

You're not even a peer
Photo by Liza Summer on

Our Peer Specialist Community has been somewhat divided in heavy talks about Non Peer Specialists providing supervision to Peers. It seemed to be creating buzz around the water cooler these days, animosity is at a fever pitch, and administration is not happy. Our Program Manager, also not a Peer, has brought this to the Peers attention. Perhaps a good way to bring the topic to light is to begin some valuable discussion.  

For me, I am a Certified Peer Specialist and have provided quality work for about twenty five years with various success, which is chiefly measured by supervisory feedback. One of the meetings I facilitated was specifically designed for peers. The goal of this group was to monitor and to provide Peers with additional support. Also, this gave the opportunity for staff to be in different, unique, challenging situations and issues as well as to receive input from other Peer Specialists.

Sometimes, a professional, or a Non-Peer, leads a seminar because of their knowledge of the subject and because they are a Good Supervisor. Over my years as a Peer Specialist, many excellent conversations about ethics, personal boundaries, workplace professionalism, coworker relationships, and general peer issues have been discussed in these kinds of meetings. There were also plenty of duds or boring ones. The majority of feedback from these groups have been extremely positive. Also, Peer Specialists view this time as a great chance to meet other Peer Specialists, examine critical issues, get back to basics, and then dig in for good old fashioned peer support.  

Good supervision includes a number of key elements to include the supervisor’s openness to learning, understanding, patience and overall personal qualities. This is even more important when Non-Peer Managers or Supervisors are working with Peers. Their efforts to examine and educate themselves on Peer situations and strategies will help to improve the working partnership. Other vital components are a safe environment, a supportive structure, and perhaps most importantly, the trusting relationship between supervisee and supervisor.  Effective supervision is about cross-disciplinary skills using varying areas of expertise, which can be a true asset in any profession, especially when Peer Specialists are included.

Us vs them
Photo by Liza Summer on

Still today, individual people and groups use the “us” versus “them” mentality that further causes others to isolate, splinter, and negatively distinguish Peers from Non-Peers.

But the fact is that most of us have a similar goal: To compassionately help others. Practices that are rooted in authenticity, openness and general acceptance have had higher success rates. Also, many situations typically involve cross discipline engagement and interaction. Generally, we have a higher probability of overall victory and satisfaction in compassionately helping others when information and input from many sources and people are made available.  

To exclude Non-Peers based on simply thinking, that they are non-peers seems to be shortsighted and wrong. Effective supervisors come in many forms and from many backgrounds, Peer or not. When choosing a Supervisor, it may be most useful to look at many of their personal attributes, attitudes, approachability, wisdom and general fairness rather than simply saying, “How do you know? You are not even a Peer”!

In my situation, I am a New York State Certified Peer Specialist and worked with Peers and and Non-Peers. Also, I have been supervised by both Peers and Non-Peers.

Working together
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Helen Keller said it well: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

It is something to ponder. 

I am not a supervisor, (but would like to be one in the Autumn time). What I would say to anyone considering or who is already providing supervision with Peers, regardless of background, be prepared to do your homework and stay up to date!

There is much changing in the Peer Specialist world as well as the Provider world. New information is constantly being disseminated. In addition, there are many new specializations, core principles, and many other topics that will require our devoted attention. My saying follows, “Peer Specialists can adapt to work, Supervisors can adapt to Peer Specialist’s world. Something to think about, while thinking about something”.

See you in the NewsBlogs.

Howard Diamond is a New York State Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island 

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