Peer Support Work – Webinar Series Reflection

As part of our capacity building work for our members and community allies, we hosted a webinar series called “Establishing Peer Support Services within Your Organization” facilitated by Jenn Cusick from Luminate Wellness.  Funded by the PHSA, the series drew participants from all over the province, including PAN members, Indigenous-led organizations and Health Authorities.  Due to the interactive nature of the sessions, and confidentiality, the sessions were not recorded, but here is a synopsis of sessions as well as resources you can use.


Session 1 gave us a definition of peer support and the difference between peer support and clinical services


Peer support is a supportive relationship grounded in the principles of mutuality, empathy, and connection. Peer support harnesses the personal lived and living experience of a challenging issue to create a mutually supportive relationship.

Peer support services are different than clinical services in that the relationship is grounded in mutuality. The relationship is always voluntary and self-directed, and based on a shared lived, living experience. Peer services are rooted in hope. Connections aren’t clinical and are instead relationship based. The focus of services is moving toward wholeness, rather than away from illness.

Peer support is different than peer-delivered services, which are services delivered by someone with lived, living experience but not necessarily rooted in relationship-based connections, which is essential to peer support.

Resources: Peer Support Standards of Practice and PAN Peer Resources page.


In session 2 we looked at the infrastructure of peer support

One of the most important things to consider when integrating peer support into an otherwise clinical team is having a clear job description and educating all staff about what the benefits and scope of peer support are.

We talked about the difference between an employee and a contractor based on CRA’s requirements (Resource) and for information about how to pay peers, check out this document from the BCCDC.

We also talked about leadership using the BC peer support core values. Typical leadership paradigms tend to be hierarchical – a “power over” approach. Instead, a “Power with” approach is about working together as a collective, and harnessing mutual support. It is in line with mutuality. A “power with” approach builds bridges and connects individuals and communities. It is a transformational approach to power and advocacy, based on these values:

  • Acknowledgement: We choose to listen and connect with team members.
  • Strength-Based: Together as a team we are creating our culture. We are building on existing strengths.
  • Self-Determination: We are creating an ecology where people can tap into their inner motivation.
  • Respect, Dignity, and Equity: We believe that every person has intrinsic value. We serve with a lens of cultural humility, while applying trauma-informed care principles to every interaction.
  • Belonging and Community: As peer supporters and leaders, we are able to hold multiple perspectives, and create awareness of our judgements and biases, so that we can work with them and build a connected team.
  • Curiosity: We choose to ask good questions, and explore new possibilities, so that we can break out of the status quo.

For more information, check out the Peer Connect course: Employer’s Guide to Supporting and Engaging Peer Workers.


Session three focused on including people with lived and living experience in our organizations

The mantra “Nothing About Us Without Us” came from the Disability Movement, and it illustrates the importance of including people with lived/living experience in all aspects of an organization. We believe:

  • No policy should be decided without direct participation of members the group(s) affected by that policy.
  • Meaningful engagement and participation are both essential and ethical.
  • Integration in all aspects of governance ensures that we aren’t patronizing, excluding, or stigmatizing.

Sometimes peer support gets mixed up with peer-delivered services, but they are different things. The broad umbrella of peer-delivered services includes all services delivered by people with lived/living experience. Some examples:

  • Peer Navigator: Primary goal is supporting someone to navigate systems.
  • Peer Educator: Primary goal is presentations and supporting education and research.
  • Peer Facilitator: Primary goal is facilitating workshops and support groups.

In contrast, a Peer Support Worker has a Primary goal of relationship, connection, and support.

People with lived/living experience can serve in any role within an organization: from leadership, clinical, community support, to a clerical or admin role.

In this session we talked about leadership, including adopting a decolonizing approach to leadership. From the paid article: Toward an Indigenous, Decolonizing School Leadership: A Literature Review (Khalifa, Khalil, Marsh & Halloran, 2019) there are five expressions, or strands, of IDSL [Indigenous, Decolonizing School Leadership]: (1) the prioritization of self-knowledge and self-reflection, (2) the empowerment of community through self-determination, (3) the centering of community voices and values, (4) service based in altruism and spirituality, and (5) approaching collectivism through inclusive communication practices.

Another aspect of leadership when leading a peer team is taking a trauma-informed approach.

Trauma-informed care is important, but it must include a focus on building relationships, connection, and a focus on personal healing. Such an approach:

  • Understands the pervasiveness of trauma, and does everything to prevent re-traumatization.
  • Creates an environment that values safety, predictability, and choice.
  • Is built on trust.
  • Focuses on empathy and compassion in all communication (language, facial expressions, written communication etc.).
  • Addressed biases and judgements that get in the way of safety, diversity, equity, and belonging.
  • Sees the importance of flexibility.
  • Prioritizes rest and self-care for leaders, so they can be less reactionary with staff and stakeholders.


In week four we covered the BC Peer Connect Provincial Training Curriculum

The province of BC funded the development of the 16-module online peer support training program. You can access them here, and the categories are:

  1. The Foundations
  2. Peer Support & Wholeness
  3. Categories & Containers: Unpacking Our Biases
  4. Self-Determination
  5. Cultural Humility
  6. Understanding Boundaries & What it Means to Co-Create Them
  7. Connection & Communication
  8. Healing-Centered Connection: Principles in Trauma-Informed Care
  9. Social Determinants of Health
  10. Supporting Someone Who Is Grieving
  11. Substance Use & Peer Support
  12. Mental Health & Supporting Those in Crisis
  13. Goal-Planning
  14. Building Personal Resilience
  15. Family Peer Support
  16. Working With Youth and Young Adults


The full training can be accessed here. For those interested in providing experiential and interactive trainings for peers, Jenn Cusick is available to teach the training to groups over Zoom or in-person (depending on location). Email [email protected].


Updated May 17, 2023