PW BLOGS: PhillyNow  |  PW Style  |  Make Major Moves  |  The Trouble with Spikol

Peer Support Helps People With Dual Diagnosis

Dec 26 2011 | Comments 11


I’m always proud to tell people I’m a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS), but it isn’t something that’s well understood by people outside of the mental health community (and even by some inside). Explaining it is a little awkward: Phrases like “lived experience” aren’t familiar to most laypeople, so you actually do have to say, “I have been trained to help people who, like I do, have behavioral health challenges.” Then you get into the problem of the language: Is it appropriate to say challenges? It’s more politically correct to say “people who have been diagnosed with…” but many disavow those diagnoses and feel they’re inaccurate. Additionally, the phrase “behavioral health” doesn’t mean much to laypeople either. I either end up doing a weird self-deprecating thing (which jibes with my overall shtick) about being “crazy” or getting far too detailed about the history and successes of peer support in the United States, which frankly bores the crap out of people.

This is why it’s good that the media continues to cover peer support—so that it becomes more widely understood and accepted. The New York Times‘ Benedict Carey, who’s the best journalist covering the mental health beat, bar none, wrote about peer support in the last installment of his series “Lives Restored,” about people with severe mental illnesses living full lives in the open. In this final episode, Carey profiles Antonio Lambert, who deals with the challenge of dual diagnosis, which, as Carey points out, is a bitch (well, he puts it differently, but you know).

About peer support, Carey is a bit abbreviated:

The mental health care system has long made use of former patients as counselors and the practice has been controversial, in part because doctors and caseworkers have questioned their effectiveness. But recent research suggests that peer support can reduce costs, and in 2007, federal health officials ruled that states could bill for the services under Medicaid — if the state had a system in place to train and certify peer providers.

In the years since, “peer support has just exploded; I have been in this field for 25 years, and I have never seen anything happen so quickly,” said Larry Davidson, a mental health researcher at Yale. “Peers are living, breathing proof that recovery is possible, that it is real.”

One thing that struck me about the article is something I don’t hear people say enough: that peer specialists are willing to do things other traditional helpers are not. Lambert, now a successful recovery motivational speaker and counselor, started small but had a tremendous impact on the first place he worked as a peer specialist.

“He had the worst cases; he had to go into these high gang areas, places no one else would go,” said Sue Bethune, his boss at the time, who is now a mental health consultant in Greensboro. “He really opened the door for the program to be able to send people in there.”

When I managed peer specialists with dual diagnosis, in particular, that was something I saw again and again: fearlessness. There is nothing they haven’t been through and nothing they won’t do now to help someone else. That’s why it’s risky work for them, and why some, even Lambert, do relapse. But their ability to show up in dark places tells the person they’re working with: you’re important and I’m here and I’ll be here no matter where you go.

Lambert still struggles to believe he’s gotten to where he is. I’ve heard that a lot too. People who say, “I used to live on that grate and I’d score crack around that corner, and now I’m walking by in a suit and tie on my way to a meeting with city officials to talk about how to deal with people living on grates and scoring crack.” That disjunction can be a little overwhelming, and it’s a lot of pressure to be seen as a model for a community. What if you don’t measure up?

Read the rest of Lambert’s story and see a video of him here to see how he handles it all.

liz | 2:13 PM | dual diagnosis, peer support, antonio lambert, benedict carey, certified peer specialist, media coverage peer support, peer support programs

Karen Cooper-Johnston Says:

It’s true.

Feb 3 1:56 AM

Vaughn Hodes Says:

This is my israel major news website

May 19 10:52 AM

Sandy Tonne Says:

I can??t truly help but appreciate your weblog web-site, your site is adorable and good

May 20 7:11 AM

Sanford Murguia Says:

Stunning essay, obtained the enjoyment of studying

May 20 7:13 AM

Heath Jernberg Says:

You’re my role models. Many thanks to the post

May 20 7:13 AM

Edison Galassi Says:

I have been reading out many of your articles and i can state nice stuff. I will surely bookmark your site.

May 24 3:03 PM

Margie Vandygriff Says:

I’ll immediately grab your rss as I can’t find your e-mail subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Please let me know so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

May 24 3:16 PM

Lindsy Amedeo Says:

I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is required to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100% positive. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Appreciate it

May 24 3:20 PM

Mariah Schouviller Says:

Whats up! I simply wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the great info you’ve got here on this post. I will likely be coming again to your blog for more soon.

May 24 3:23 PM

Denver laser hair removal Says:

nicely of course, everyone loves to get rich but not everyone would love to do hard work;;

Jun 8 4:37 PM

advokati beograda Says:

n some one searches for his vital thing, therefore he/she wishes to be available that in detail, so that thing is maintained over here.

Jul 30 5:06 PM


Name *required

Mail *will not be published, required