Peer specialists who work one-on-one with others have often asked: “Was I effective there?’ or “How could I have been more effective?”
These two questions evoke many operating functional parts into the conversation. These elements include essential engagement, the alliance between peer support specialists and the clients we assist, plus the general skills and techniques used in helping others is crucial. All of these push back against the response of the participant involved.
However, the word energy is the prevailing moving part of this relationship process with the most momentum and, hands down, the most significant player in treatment.
Energy means the strength and vitality required for sustained physical and mental activity. This type of energy is created by its inertia and what truly drives peer relationships in the correct direction. I am not trying to be facetious. Working or doing work separately and together makes the difference in peer relations almost every time.
Note that in physics, the measure of energy transfer in a therapeutic or clinical language is different. The change or corrective force occurs when an object (the issue at hand) is moved over a distance by an outside force (the counsellor or therapist). In physics, this makes perfect sense. But we are not talking about the laws of physics.
So, why does it seem like such a ludicrous sham when energy is translated into clinical terms? So now, I will be brutally honest. Aside from the terms “burnout” and “compassion fatigue,” there aren’t many phrases that evaluate the sheer energy a peer specialist must invest into his or her work, and that must be matched by the individual that results in any meaningful gains. Actual results require equal energy from the peer specialist and the actual consumer.
Let us break it down on both sides. Have you ever met with a therapist who is boring, unmotivating, and has low energy? My insomnia aside, I still would have fallen asleep during the session. People don’t make progress in therapy when they are asleep. Most of us hardly develop anything while slumbering except maybe recharging our internal batteries.
In Addition, peer specialists must have a keen ability to motivate individuals to be effective. Peer specialists and recipients must be awake, attentive, and actively responding to a highly invigorating therapeutic prodding.
Pushing against this and learning where he or she stands in the travels of our therapeutic distress is vital. Naturally, this is invoked by our therapist and often leads us as patients to learn about our new limits, insights, and increased abilities and self-awareness. Any back-and-forth collaboration creates an energy transfer, release of negative energies, and or cultivation of positive reframing. The purpose of the therapist re-framing the content worked with in the session is to understand ourselves and the world more deeply.
Peer support specialists and the consumers we assist are not immune. Our overall energy tends to motivate each party separately and together. When the client has a high energy level, we can accomplish more and achieve a goal.
Also, a client with low passion can still reach the goal, but it becomes more difficult. A peer specialist with increased determination is more effective and efficient in helping most of the clients served. Less energy from the peer specialist tends to make others act lethargic and uncaring about goals.
Either way, peer specialists are very effective, but it is hard to measure how much. Both partners in these relationships ought to have middle to high energies to obtain successful goals. Remember, it is the client’s goal and energy, not the goal of the peer specialist. Our effectiveness and energies can and do make a positive difference.
According to various sources, peer specialists improve the quality of life, increase and improve engagement with services, plus increase physical and mental health and self-management. Being part of the peer specialist community, I am always grateful to see positive pieces in our work. We have come far, climbed mountains, and swam many waters, but we still have a long way to go. As we continue our journey, we will have bumps in the road, but we will persevere one peer specialist and one day at a time.
Howard Diamond is a New York State-certified peer specialist from Long Island.
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