The peer specialist community has been somewhat divided and the heavy talks about non-peer specialists providing supervision to peers. It seemed to be creating some buzz around the water cooler these days, animosity is at a fever pitch and the administration is not happy. The programme manager, also not a peer has brought this to the peer’s attention. Perhaps a good way to bring the topic to light is to begin some valuable discussion.
For me, I am a certified peer specialist and have provided quality work for about 25 years with various successes, which is chiefly measured by supervisory feedback. One of the meetings I facilitated was specifically designed for peers. The goal of this group was to monitor and to provide peers with additional support. Also, this gave the opportunity for staff to be different, unique challenging situations and issues as well as to receive input from other peer specialists.
Sometimes, a professional, or a non-peer is leading a seminar, because of their knowledge of the subject and being a good supervisor.
Over my years as a peer specialist, many excellent conversations about ethics, personal boundaries, workplace professionalism, coworker relationships, and general peer issues have been discussed in meetings.
There were plenty of duds or boring ones. The majority of feedback from these groups has been extremely positive. Also, peer specialists view this time as a great chance to meet other peer specialists, examine critical issues, get back to basics and then dig in for good old- fashioned peer support.
Good supervision includes a number of key elements to include the supervisor’s openness to learning, understanding, patience, and overall personal qualities.
This is even more important when non-peer managers are working with peers. Their efforts to examine and educate themselves on peer situations and strategies will improve the working partnership. Other vital components are a safe environment, a supportive structure, and perhaps most importantly, the trusting relationship between supervisee and supervisor.
Effective supervision is a cross-disciplinary skills using varying areas of expertise and can be a true asset in any profession, especially when peer specialists are included. Still today, individual people and groups use the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality that likely further causes others to isolate, splitting, and negatively distinguishes peers from non-peers.
Most of us have a similar goal: To compassionately help others. Practices that are rooted in authenticity, openness, and general acceptance had higher success rates. Also, in many situations, and typically involve much cross-discipline engagement and interaction. Generally, we have higher probability of overall victory and satisfaction when information and input from many sources and people are made available.
To exclude non-peers based on simply thinking, that they are non-peers seems to be shortsighted and wrong. Effective supervisors come in many forms and from many backgrounds, peer or not. When choosing a supervisor, it may be most useful to look at many of their personal attributes, attitudes, approachability, wisdom, and general fairness rather than saying, how do you know? you are not even a peer?
In my situation, remember, I am a New York State certified peer specialist and worked with peers and non-peers. Also, I have been supervised by both peers and non-peers.Helen Keller said it well: ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’ It is something to ponder.
Pondering time is over. Although I am not a supervisor, (but would like to be one by the Autumn time), I would say to anyone who is considering or already providing peer specialist specific supervision with peers, regardless of background, be prepared to do their homework and stay up to date! There is much changing in the peer specialist plus the provider world and new information are constantly being disseminated.
In addition, there are many new specialisations, core principles, and many other topics that will require our devoted attention. My saying follows: ‘Peer Specialists can adapt to work, supervisors can adapt to peer specialist’s work. Something to think about while thinking about something.’ See you in the NewsBlogs.
Howard Diamond is a certified peer specialist in New York.
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