A peer supporter or peer support specialist is a person that is hired because of his/her lived experience with mental health and/or substance abuse issues. The intention is to bring service user experiences into the services, and to systematically give service users/patients acces to service user experiences. A peer supporter has a unique opportunity to use his/her experiences from mental health/substance abuse services to help others in the same situation. A peer supporter will see his/her experiences in a larger perspective and reflect on this with other staff. Through cooperation and counceling a peer support specialist contributes to developement and innovation of mental health/substance abuse services.
In 2013 KBT startet a two year project where we hires peer support specialists in two ambulatory outreach teams in the Central Norway Regional Health Authority. The project was named “Praksis- og holdningsutvikling gjennom erfaringskonsulent i ambulante team” [Practice and attitude development through Peer Support Specialists in Outreach teams], and was conducted at Nidaros DPS and Tiller DPS. An evaluation of the project showed that the peer supporters had a great significance in the personal contact with the patients. They were bearers of hope and able to contribute with coping strategies for the patients.
In 2016 a new project called “Erfaringskonsulenter i kommunalt psykisk helse- og rusarbeid” [Peer support specialist in municipal mental health and substance abuse services] was started. The goal is to develop the peer supporters role through employment in a municipal house, treffsteder [community centres] and an outreach team. We will evaluate how the peer supporters role coexists with service users and staff. Three peer support specialists are employed respectively in the recovery team, a municipal house and the community centres Sommerstua, Heimdal and Veiskillet in Trondheim municipality.
KBT also conducts courses on peer support. December 12th and 13th 2016, peer supporters and colleagues of peer supporters from Oslo, Rogaland, Oppland, Sør-Trøndelag and Nord-Trøndelag attended our first course on the peer supporters role and function. This was the first initiative from KBT to create an environment and contact between peer supporters in Central Norway specifically. This course was successful.
KBT invites to new courses on the peer supporters function in mental health and substance abuse services in Norway. We have a course in Tromsø the 2nd and 3rd of October, and in Trondheim the 5th and 6th of October 2017.