(September 5, 2023) By Howard Diamond
Peer Specialists who work one on one with others have often asked: “Was I effective there?’ or “How could I have been more effective?”
These two questions evoke many operating functional parts into the conversation. These elements include essential engagement, the alliance between Peer Support Specialists and the clients we assist, plus the general skills and techniques used in helping others is crucial. All of these push back against the response of the participant involved. However, the prevailing moving part of this relationship process that has the most momentum and hands down the most significant player in treatment is the word energy.
Energy is the strength and vitality required for sustained physical and mental activity. This type of energy is created by its own inertia and is what truly drives peer relationships in the correct direction. I am not trying to be facetious. Work or doing work separately and together makes the difference in a peer relations almost every time.
Note that in physics, the measure of energy transfer in a therapeutic or clinical language is different. There, the change or corrective force occurs when an object (the issue at hand) is moved over a distance by an outside force (the counselor or therapist). In physics, this makes perfect sense. But we are not talking about the laws of physics.
So, why does it seem like such a ludicrous sham when energy is translated into clinical terms? So now, I will be brutally honest. Aside from the terms, “burnout” and “compassion fatigue,” there aren’t many phrases that evaluate the sheer energy a Peer Specialist must invest into his or her work and that must be matched by the individual that results in any meaningful gains. Actual results require equal energy from the Peer Specialist and the actual consumer.
Let us break it down on both sides. Have you ever met with a therapist who is boring, unmotivating, and has low energy? My insomnia aside, I still would have fallen asleep during the session. Obviously, people don’t make progress in therapy when they are asleep. Actually, most of us hardly develop much of anything while slumbering, except maybe recharging our internal batteries. In Addition, Peer Specialists need to have a keen ability to motivate individuals to be effective. Peer Specialists as well as recipients have to be awake, attentive, and actively responding to a highly invigorating therapeutic prodding.
Pushing against this and learning where he or she stands in the travels of our therapeutic distress is vital. Naturally this is invoked by our therapist and often leads us as the patient to learn about our new limits, our insights, and increased self-awareness. Any back and forth collaboration creates an energy transfer and release of negative energies, and or cultivation of positive reframe. The purpose of the therapist re-framing the content worked with in session is to understand ourselves and the world more deeply.
Peer Support Specialists and the consumers we assist are not immune. Our overall energy tends to motivate each party separately and together. When the client has a high level of energy, we can get more accomplished and a goal can be achieved. Also, a client with low passion can still reach the goal, but it becomes more difficult. A Peer Specialist with increased determination is more effective and efficient in helping most of the clients served. Less energy from the Peer Specialist tends to make others act lethargic and uncaring about goals. Either way, Peer Specialists are very effective, but it is hard to measure how much. Both partners in these relationships ought to have middle to high energies to obtain successful goals. Remember, it is the client’s goal and energy, not the goal of the Peer Specialist. Our effectiveness and energies can and does make a positive difference.
According to various sources, Peer Specialists improve the quality of life, increase and improve engagement with services, and increase physical and mental health and self-management. Being part of the Peer Specialist Community, I am always grateful to see positive pieces on what we do. We have come far, climbed many mountains, swam many waters but we still have a long way to go. As we continue our journey we will have bumps in the road, but will persevere one Peer Specialist and one day at a time.
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Howard Diamond is a Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island New York.