Better Recovery Through Peer Support

Individuals who are living in the aftermath of an early episode of psychosis often experience a loneliness that family, friends, and providers can’t fill.  The unfortunate discrimination about their diagnosis that many people in recovery from psychosis experience creates challenges to re-connect to themselves and the world around them, and while the support of family, friends, and providers helps, who better to connect with the experience of being in recovery than another who has lived through it?  This is where peers in recovery provides a crucial support in recovery from psychosis.

Peer Support and Social Inclusion is now recognized by SAMHSA as an essential ingredient for recovery, and that it reduces healthcare costs.  Examples of peer support include:

  • One-to-one mentoring or coaching
  • Recovery resource connecting
  • Support group facilitation
  • Peer community building and navigation

Although not part of the RAISE study or core components of CSC, we are piloting and evaluating the inclusion of Peer Support Specialists on CSC teams, and through separate peer-matching and community-building initiatives.  We believe that through enhanced and privileged inclusion of peer recovery experience, clients and providers can better understand and navigate challenges and successes for individuals in recovery from early episode psychotic illnesses.

Shifting the Focus… Shifting the Power

The average age of a first episode of psychosis is 25, with the average range between 15 and 30.  This is a crucial period of development from childhood to adulthood that is largely carried out between parents and young adult children on one side, and same-age peers and romantic pursuits on the other.  In North Carolina, most persons who have earned a Certificate in Peer Support and are eligible for employment as a Peer Support Specialist in formal care have entered more established adulthood, and while we believe in the potential healing power of Peer Support Specialists in clinical settings, we know the importance of same-age peer support.  This led us to shift our thinking on peer support by asking “What if an older, more experienced Certified Peer Support Specialist could train and support same-age peers in recovery to provide quality peer support to one another through this transition into adulthood?”  Our answer: “We could have as many trained peer supporters as there are same-age peers in our community!”

But we are going beyond that.  While we believe that empowering Peer Support Specialists to transfer their knowledge and skills to younger generations of peers will empower same-age peers in recovery to create supportive community, we know that broader stigma reduction and social inclusion is crucial for recovery.  We are also recruiting same-age volunteers from outside of the treatment program willing to be peer supports to peers in recovery.  We believe that once same-age peers are trained to understand psychosis, recovery, and the principles of peer support, that we can shape a generation of community members that look beyond the stigma of psychosis, and will support and advocate for the inclusion of individuals in recovery to integrate with their communities, and more fully restore their quality of life.

To learn more about Peer Support for Early Episode Psychosis please email Diana Perkins at