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Peer Values

On Tuesday, May 26th, a mixed group of five veteran peers and non-veteran peers met to discuss the values of peer support and how they pertain to creating meaning and living our best life. Andy Labadie, Carmencita Pinckney, Ryan Christman, Henrietta Beach and Sandra Fleischman participated.

Our human values represent the aspects of living and working that we believe are most important. When we can understand and communicate our personal values it becomes easier to discuss with others the collective values that impact us all. Last week, we talked about situations when we observe another person demonstrating values that conflict with what we believe. Our discussion yesterday addressed how we might respond if challenged by such a situation.

There are many environments where we might experience a conflict of values. The Internet continues to grow as a constant source of new ideas where people are all clamoring to have their voices heard and recognized. Often times, someone expressing their values on the Internet can be shocking or offensive to us. It can impact the way we think and the way we go about things in our daily lives.

Several of the group members in our discussion are Certified Peer Support Specialists. We also discussed situations where a certified peer discovers another co-worker not upholding the collective values of peer support for various reasons. Perhaps they are struggling with a relapse of substance abuse or are having a hard time managing their personal mental health. It can be difficult if you see someone struggling at work to know what to do to help.

We talked about when it is appropriate to challenge the values of someone else and how to do so. The suggestion was made that we can ask ourselves, “What do I want to give the world?” or “what would serve the greater good?” In that context, it becomes easier to distinguish when to take action.

Often times, taking action takes the same form as a peer’s central purpose, to provide support. Challenging the values of someone else does not necessarily need to be a conflict. It can involve the same skills peers use every day to listen to and empathize with others. Sometimes, telling our story helps another see similarities and differences involved in making value choices.

Another benchmark we discussed was being true to ourselves. If we can develop our best selves, it is so much easier to help other people do the same. If someone else does not agree about what I think is best for me, how can I consider what they are saying and still be true to me?

Peer support has established principles comprised of the “underlying values that make peer support unique and valuable.” We can trust these principles when looking for ways to create meaning and develop the world we would like to see, especially stabilizing recovery.

The group believes that peers can model behaviors in accordance with these principles. One participant said, “I just became an activist, it was a matter of standing up for peer values with other people that didn’t understand.”

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