The growing number of peer specialists working effectively in mental health systems around the country has led to a rapid expansion of the roles and responsibilities of this new element in the mental health workforce. In August, the Temple Collaborative and its consumer consultants collaborated with the International Association of Peer Supporters National Conference here in Philadelphia to offer a pre-conference workshop – available both in- person and on-line – that explored three emerging roles for peer specialists: promoting connections to religious congregations, encouraging service recipients to return to competitive employment, and preparing peers for jobs in the crisis intervention field.
After an introduction from the Collaborative’s Richard Baron that outlined the importance of these three aspects of community life to individuals with mental illness, the workshop/webinar participants heard from: Christa Andrade, who spoke about the roles that peer specialists can play in helping those who are interested in religious or spiritual connections to participate in the congregations of their choice (Developing Welcoming Faith Communities); Jim Klasen, who brought participants up-to-date on the ‘advanced peer specialist’ 2-day program that offers peers the skills needed to assist those they serve to return to competitive employment (please email Jim directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information); and David Measel, who spoke about his work with the Pennsylvania Peer Support Coalition to develop a comprehensive three-day training program for peers who want jobs in crisis intervention systems (e.g., hot-lines, crisis residential settings, or mobile crisis teams (Voices: Perspectives of Peer Specialists Working in Crisis Intervention Services). A recording of the INAPS pre-conference workshop on the expanding roles of peer specialists in its entirety can be found here.
In another contribution to the iNAPS conference, Dr. Mark Salzer and Dr. Liz Thomas represented the Collaborative during a workshop that they gave at the INAPS annual conference, held in Philadelphia last month. Mark presented on the current state of the peer support research literature, and Liz facilitated a discussion about audience members’ perceptions of the most important research questions for the field. Attendees were highly engaged, generating a list of about 30 questions with topics ranging from the effectiveness of different types of peer support and the contexts that facilitate effectiveness to characteristics of the researchers and how the research is currently being used. A Center product with a list of these questions is forthcoming.