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How peer support can help your patient

Peer support is a system of giving and receiving help founded on the key principles of respect and shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful. Peer support is not based on psychiatric models or diagnostic criteria. It is about understanding another’s situation empathically through the shared experience of emotional and psychological pain. When people find affiliation with others they feel ‘like’ them, they feel a connection. This connection or affiliation, is a deep holistic understanding based on mutual experience where people are able to ‘be’ with each other without constraints of traditional (expert/patient) relationships”. Mead 2011

How can peer support help my patient?

More than ever, peer support is being recognised as an important part of the management and recovery journey for people living with chronic illnesses. It complements the vital care of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals by:

  • offering strategies for better self-management
  • providing an avenue for people to express their feeling with people who are ‘in the same boat’
  • enabling greater confidence and a sense of hope into the future
  • reduces feelings of isolation especially for those who may not have family or friends, or who cannot voice their concerns to them.

Hear from Dr. Jessica Browne, Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes on what the evidence tells us about peer support.

The Power of Social Connectedness Michelle Heisler of the University of Michigan talks of the power of peer support to provide a sense of purpose and social connectedness.

What can I do as a health professional? 

Where appropriate you may like to discuss peer support with your patient as an adjunct tool for them to manage their condition. There are a number of groups available to specifically support the needs and condition of the person.

It is important to remember that peer support is not only a self-management tool for people with a chronic illness, it is as valuable and beneficial for carers, family members and friends.

More information on peer support can be obtained from chronic illness organisations.