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

by Howard Diamond

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

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 Pexels.com

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
Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

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 

Our Community Mourns the Passing of Recovery Champion Kirsten Vincent

We Mourn the Passing of Recovery Champion Kirsten Vincent (Contributed by NYAPRS – June 3, 2021)

Q & A with Kirsten Vincent from Recovery Options – In Good Health – Buffalo & WNY's Healthcare Newspaper

On behalf of the NYAPRS board and community, I am deeply sorry to share the news of the passing of Kirsten Vincent this past Monday, May 31 at the age of 50.

Some of you have known Kirsten as the CEO of Recovery Options Made Easy, a highly respected and innovative peer-run agency in Western New York. Some of you have known her for her dedication to quality peer services in her roles with the NYS Peer Specialist Board, the Academy of Peer Services, as President of the Wellness Collaborative of New York and as a certified personal medicine coach and peer specialist.

Moreover, our NYAPRS Board has greatly treasured Kirsten’s dedication and tireless efforts in support of our agency and mission as our Secretary and co-President Elect.

Tireless dedication exemplified Kirsten.

Under her leadership, Recovery Options has come to offer best practice peer delivered services across 7 counties in Western New York and most recently been working with state and local government and partners on a new initiative that could come to house a peer run crisis stabilization center, peer respite house and Living Room program at one site.

Kirsten never refused any request. She followed her vision and dedication to the recovery of her peers to take on countless projects and people. I was one of them.

I was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago, which led to the removal of one of my lobes. I hadn’t mentioned this to most folks and shortly thereafter, had the opportunity to give opening remarks at our Annual Rehabilitation Academy. After moving to the back of the room to take a needed ‘breather,’ I found Kirsten standing next to me. She did what peers do, which is to share her own health issues, which prompted me to tell her about the cancer. She had known all along…had sensed it…and was so comforting and encouraging. We continued to stay in touch, supporting each other along the way.

I know I speak for every NYAPRS Board member and staff person when I extend our deep sympathy and support to Kirsten’s husband and family and to the Recovery Options staff and community. We greatly share the sentiments of  Recovery Options’ Board President Ralph Swanson: “Kirsten will leave a void in our lives but her kindness and accomplishments will be acknowledged for many years to come.”

Please join NYAPRS as we send sympathy flowers to the funeral home and plant memorial trees in a national forest in her honor and memory.

Click here to view Kirsten’s obituary

Kirsten and the Academy of Peer Services

In 2019, Kirsten presented the first in our Academy of Peer Services Faces and Places of Peer Support Series, where we came to appreciate her vision and passion for supporting people in recovery. She spoke about the services offered at Housing Options Made Easy (HOME), which was later renamed Recovery Options Made Easy (ROME) to build upon their expanded services and supports. To learn more about Kirsten and her work, visit:

Understanding Peer Services
Kirsten Vincent of Housing Options
Broadcast May 31, 2019
Virtual Respite Brochure | Presentation Slides  |  Recording

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

May 19, 2021 (Reposted from WELLNESSWORKS4US Courtesy Carlton Whitmore)

In Honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month…

Thank you for everyone who has participated so far in the Sing Tao Daily event for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! In case you missed it, CAFAMH has partnered with Sing Tao Daily, Affinity Health Plan, and many other incredible NYC community orgs to create Chinese-language educational videos on health and well-being.

Last week, Sing Tao posted videos dedicated to mental health, including videos from CAFAMH leaders Teddy Chen, Ph.D. (“Mental Health and Caregiver Stress”), Margaret Lai, LMSW (“Effective Communication in the Family”), and friend of CAFAMH Dr. Annie Li of Bellevue Hospital Center + NYU Langone (“Talking to your Children about Racism”). All three videos are in Cantonese. You can watch the videos, including videos from other community orgs in Cantonese and Mandarin, through this link.

MAY IS MENTAL HEALTH MONTH, but MORE

by Howard Diamond

May 1, 2021

self care isn t selfish signage
Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

May is Mental Health Month, but it means so much more. How about physical health, does this resonate? Our ability to maintain health is vital and each of us do this in our way. We are in a trap and cannot find the way out. Often, we eat what we want, when we want as long it does not affect others. People like me, who are overweight, but don’t do little to change their wellness focus find this difficult. Some of us are afraid and think that the way we are, and there is little can be done to make a significant difference.  While others do not care.

Just remember folks, this is about our health and wellness. By its definition wellness means, “the state of being good health, especially as an actively pursued goal. Also, it measures our progress both qualitatively and quantitatively”.

Peer Specialists like myself are unique. Practically every day, we work on our own Mental Health and often share this with other individuals, but we fall very short when it comes to other wellness focuses. Dr. Peggy Swarbrick, Rutgers University Director of Practice Innovations and Wellness wrote that there are eight dimensions of wellness whereby each goes hand and hand with the other to shape a person. No, not round or square. This of course doesn’t mean we are always at our best, but it is sometimes to strive for every day. My day is divided into separate sections, so it doesn’t become overwhelming. Not to say that it always works, but it is in the attempt. Ultimately, it is up to all people to do their utmost.

There are many other techniques that one can use to attain wellness. Examples are, but not limited to, Progressive Relaxation, Visualization, Thought Stopping and Assertive Skill Building. Each one of them has advantages and disadvantages.  By virtue of being Peer Specialists and our core value of mutuality…assisting others and they assisting us, we all gain and get ahead. 

Sounds efficient to me. Personally, in my toolkit, I have used all of them with various degrees of success. The Recovery Toolkit is designed to support  everyone through all the stages of recovery. This is from planning to stay well to cope with a crisis and learn from our own experiences.

Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD, Author, Educator, Mental Health Advocate and Mental Health Survivor designed the “Wellness Recovery and Action Plan (WRAP)”. What WRAP is, an Evidence-Based, mental health recovery program, based on her study of the coping and strategies of people who have experienced mental health challenges. In 2005, Dr. Copeland created the Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery which continues her training around the world. Due to her extensive work with individuals in crisis, we know each person learns ways to deal with their symptoms differently and focusing on their strengths. Lift one, two, repeat; don’t strain oneself.

Keep in mind that everyone has their own way to cope and I am not going to say that one idea is better than another. All this piece is stating is that there are many ways to help each other in recovery and definitely to use one to aid ourselves. Don’t we want that for personkind? For me, this sounds wonderful, but I am just one distinct individual. Let me know how this works out for each person out there by sharing your thoughts and comments. Anxiously, awaiting your responses!  Breathe, Howard, Breathe! Again, Breathe, Howard, Breathe!

Ah, that’s better. Now with all that is going on, make every month Health and Wellness Month, not just May. Happy Mother’s Day. See you in the NewsBlogs.

HOWARD DIAMOND IS A NEW YORK STATE CERTIFIED PEER SPECIALIST FROM LONG ISLAND 

FEBRUARY OUT, MARCH IN. 

by HOWARD DIAMOND 

March 1, 2021

hello march printed paper on white surface
Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

February out, March in
Winds this month are often strong
Hearing it rattle against the garbage bin
Making winter seem so very long. 

It is said March comes in like a lion
Thirty-one days to make some changes
Choose them singularly and show your tryin’
Lots can happen if one takes it in stages.

Hamlet was warned to beware the ides
Continuing Shakespeare’s poem with a riddle
Perhaps watching the ocean and its tides
Enjoying the March days from this middle.

St. Patrick Day arrived with the color green
Shamrocks are placed almost everywhere
Went to a parade that was the best ever seen
Singing and dancing was the main theme here.

Winter solstice happens every year
Grass turns green and flowers bloom
Wipe away each and every tear
Spring has much less gloom and doom.

Next month is around the bend
Hiding in the bushes away from the cam
March is about to come to an end
As usual going out like a lamb.

HOWARD DIAMOND, A NEW YORK STATE CERTIFIED PEER SPECIALIST FROM LONG ISLAND 

DO WE WANT TO BE A VOLUNTEER?                  

By Howard Diamond

February 1, 2021

man in white t shirt and blue pants
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

What type of job do we want?
What skills and hobbies do we possess?
Do we have enough experience?
Where do we start our search?
Do we want to be a volunteer?

To volunteer is the willingness to work on behalf of others without the expectation of pay or other tangible gain. What I am focusing on how this is a tool of recovery. To be a volunteer one becomes an integral part of an organization or agency. They are valued around the world regardless of age, race, creed or gender, anyone who wants to give back to our communities. 

In my past, I volunteered on many occasions, including my university’s public relations department, sports information office and my universities’ student advocate office. These were positive opportunities and assisted me in my educational and social goals. Not only does volunteering help the place where we are doing the work, but it benefits the specific person doing the work itself. On occasion volunteering can lead to paid employment.  

Yes, this applied to me, also. During late 1992 or 1993, I began volunteering in the Grant Department of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset (now called Northwell Health). Performing a variety of tasks, I learned many functions of the job and I was always on time. After around seven months one of the employees in the department went on sick leave. Then, I was asked if I wanted a temporary paid position. Once, I juggled my schedule I was able to work four days weekly from 8am to 5pm and where I stayed for five months (13 months in total) till he returned. This was great for my working experience and they were glad to have me.

Others commented that being a volunteer is rewarding. Also, we find it as an instrumental part in stopping our cycles of relapsing and possibly returning to the hospital. Many of us have found by doing a volunteering is a stepping stone with a chance to accomplish something positive and feeling productive. By volunteering, one can learn new things, make new friends and of course develop skills with the possibly for some type of paid employment. An expression often used here, “get one’s feet wet”. Wow, that sounds totally awesome.

Time does not really matter for someone who volunteers. Whether one volunteers, one hour a day, few hours a week, a week or two or several months, it is a wonderful technique to figure out oneself. Furthermore, we continue to perform an important function and helping others and us in the process. Also, a person may get an opportunity to, “spread one’s wings” in a “real life” work environment.

Evaluate for oneself. The best person to know what a person wants is the person themselves. Then, do we want to be a volunteer? A lot of information was given in this article to make a decision, think about this carefully. No rush, no pressure. It is up to each individual to make their own choice. Positive thinking all.

See everyone in the NewsBlogs.

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

JANUARY WHILE REFLECTING ON DECEMBER

by Howard Diamond 

January 15, 2021

January is here and we are only a few days into 2021. Most of us have been affected one way or another by COVID19. Too many suffered, too many died. As of this writing, there are two vaccines and reasons for optimism that 2021 will be better. Yes, there will be changes, but will be good enough to excite our interests or make our lives better to put us in a positive frame of mind and put us on the long and winding road. No, neither of the Beatles roads, Abbey Road or the Long and Winding Road. Not the yellow brick road, from the Wizard Of Oz. It is our ROAD TO SUCCESS, Yes, our road to success! 

gray tunnel
Photo by Aldiyar Seitkassymov on Pexels.com

Eight days and eight nights of Chanukah have now come and gone. Did Jewish people, get their gifts? Probably not, too much struggle in many places around the world. In many of the windows were pretty menorahs shining in the night. Many evenings, I smelled the latkes (potato pancakes) being fried on the stove. In the ovens were turkeys not quite ready to be carved. While the kids were playing dreidels and singing CHANUKAH SONGS in three different languages, English, Hebrew and Yiddush.

Was this a good year or a bad one? Success and failure is different for each of us, but we do strive for the former. Despite his valiant efforts, President Trump, lost the November elections. His successor, Joseph Biden was recently inaugurated on January 20, 2021 as the 46th President of the United States and right before, Senator Kamala Harris, from California was sworn in and became Vice-President. History was made as Sen. Harris was the first Black Asian Female Vice-President of the United States. Is this a good change or not? Only time will tell.

My preference is to stay in the positive and reflect. Although, I do not want the snow, I do my best to accept it as it falls from the sky, Deciding to gaze outside the open window and feel the snow as it glistens on my unprotected hand, sometimes reaching out to grab a few to make little snowmen for others to witness. Meanwhile, from another home, I heard a stereo playing CHRISTMAS CAROLS for anyone to sing, dance, or just and enjoy. Let’s not worry there are plenty of trees, all decorated with shiny ornaments in red and green, yellow and blue to make the night bright. While others are watching a variety of classic holiday movies like, “A Christmas Carol” or “Home Alone” or “Christmas Story”. Also, in the air I can smell turkeys roasting, hams glazing, biscuits frying and an array of desserts baking all emitting odors from the assortment of kitchens. 

HOLIDAYS ARE HERE AND GONE 

gold and white floral wreath
Photo by Julia Larson on Pexels.com

As December arrived most of us did cheer
Several faiths call this time the festival of lights
Getting ready for a celebration of a new year
To get through all the days and the nights

For some they spent these times alone
Little or no family or friends to spend the days
Many are lonely and basically have no one
Far away from people and the sun rays

Sleep and rest when we can
Taking a shower to start my day
Today I am going to feel like a man
Seizing each moment in every way

During last month most of us prepared for the year ahead
Not knowing when someone will be getting a call on their phone
While others want a safe place to live with a comfortable bed
Wishing for a healthier life for me and for you in the year 2021.

Awakening from my daydream of holidays past, this concludes with the last previous paragraph.  Now, I am thinking or dreaming about some of my holidays with my significant other, Maureen who died on Friday June 12, 2015. On December 11, we would have been married 15 years. When I think about her here or somewhere else, I can only imagine how my life would be different. Sweetie, I love you, I miss you, and I still wish you were beside me here. SEE YOU IN THE NEWS BLOGS.

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

LOOK, LOOK AHEAD 2021

by Howard Diamond 

January 1, 2021

woman wearing a face mask on the subway
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Look, look to the year ahead
COVID19 is about all that was said
Unfortunately thousands of humans are dead
Still not many alternatives to do instead.

Look, look ahead for there is greatness and joy 
Harder to seek out for what we can enjoy
Did we even get a holiday toy
Whether we are a girl or a boy.

Look, look ahead and not behind
Not able to see the wonders of mankind
2020 was real not a dream of the mind
There are still many people that are kind.

Look, look ahead and do not despair
Life is never perfect hard to continue or even care
Difficult to take any risks or able to dare
Even if we believe that life is not fair.

Look, look ahead and not back
Try to achieve what last year did lack
Hopefully we can eat inside, Whopper or Big Mac
Follow President Biden because he is leader of the pack.

Look, look ahead it is now 2021
In 2020 we saw lots of violence especially with people owning a gun
COVID19 took many lives, but remain resilient our work is not done
Let’s try to make this a great year and have some fun.

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

 __________________________________________________________________________

WISHING FOR NO MORE COVID-19                

by Howard Diamond

woman in brown dress holding white plastic bottle painting
Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko on Pexels.com

Wishing for no more COVID19 
The worst virus mankind has ever seen
No one saw this coming, it was unforeseen
For too many people, it became extremely mean.

This year COVID19 will actually leave
At least that is what I want to believe
Many others are still needing to grieve
Waiting to see what COVID19 has up its sleeve.

Wishing for no more COVID19 to occur
It did not pass us by like a blur
Too much for all of us to endure
Now it is time that we find a cure.

Outside we continue to wear a mask
Going inside a restaurant is still a task
Some people are still drinking from their flask
No more COVID19 is all that I ask.

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

Welcome to our Blog

(Original Post: September 10, 2016)

virtual community

Welcome to the APS Virtual Learning Community Blog. This is a place where peer support workers and all others who are involved in the growing peer workforce can share ideas, learn more about what’s happening in the peer community and support each other. We invite your contributions and ideas! Similar to a community garden, this virtual community will grow and thrive with each person who gets involved. Join us in this space for personal and professional growth to strengthen the peer support workforce for ourselves, our co-workers, the people we support and their families, and ultimately our ‘real’ communities. . We’re glad you’re here! ~ Rita Cronise / APS VLC Coordinator

2016 – 2020 Blogs

Link to past Blogs

The Academy of Peer Services (APS) Virtual Learning Community website was started in 2016. In the fall of 2020, the site was redesigned and the Blog was temporarily discontinued until we had the ability to preserve past posts, in reverse Chronological order.

assorted vinyl record lot
Photo by Robin McPherson on Pexels.com

Click here for a PDF of the Virtual Learning Community Blog posts prior to December 2020.