Individual Autonomy and Peer Support



This is a note from a personal perspective:


I have studied the Peer Support Training Manual from front to back.  I know the evidence-based practices involved.  It is something that I must practice daily so to override my instinctual reactions to people and issues.  I am a mother-er.  Even before I had kids, I was the mother-er to my friends.  You don’t have to be a mother to be like this.  You don’t even have to be female.  You are just the type of person who wants to fix things and people.


I have always been the one there to listen to problems.  The issue is that I want to put a bandage on everything and make it better.  I want to fix things.  I’m afraid if my son played football, I’d be the parent running on the field every time he was tackled saying, “Oh! Are you okay??” and embarrass him. Thankfully, he doesn’t play football.


Peer Support isn’t counseling and I’m not allowed to give a lot of advice.  The premise is to be an affective listener; it is to ask open-ended, honest questions.  Peer Support has to allow the individual the autonomy of choosing his or her own path.  Even if I am not sure that they are ready to work, if they say they want to work, I am to point them in directions where they can get more information, or just be their advocate.


If you are like me, you want to surround the person in bubble wrap and protect them from the world.   People, however, deserve the chance to live a “self-directed life.”  Parents, family, and mental health workers mean well when trying to protect the person from the world, but every human has a right to try to reach his or her own full potential…and to try to reach their dreams.


As a Peer Specialist, it has been tough not being able to just say, “Well, you can do this or that, and it would solve your problem!”  It has been tough not getting out my package of band aids to “fix” things.  It is hard not being able to “mother” or “parent” the patients, because I do care about them a great deal.  Every person deserves the ability to succeed or fail.  Everyone deserves a shot at flying from the nest.  It is a skill that I’ve had to learn.


Rebecca Coursey, KPS
Peer Support Specialist

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