New Life II…Your Community on the Road to Recovery
Peer recovery support specialists—people credentialed by life experience and on-the-job training—are now being integrated into a wide variety of settings and are delivering services across the stages of long-term addiction recovery. This approach is an integral part of New Life II.
The role of the peer support specialist is to provide care to the recovering participant. Typically, these caregivers have real-life experience in, or with, recovery. Whether they are a volunteer, family member of a recovering person, or a former addict, peer support specialists are critically important when providing emotional and informational support to those in recovery at New Life II.
Peer support specialists within an addiction treatment setting are not 12-step counselors. The peer support specialist works to gain the trust of the recovering participant; they are not governed by 12-step rules, although they may use those tools if preferred.
Peer support specialists are often the living proof that addiction recovery works if you put in the energy and time it takes to get sober. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) cites the scientific literature that suggests peer support providers offer four types of social support in addiction treatment settings:
- Informational, by providing referrals to social service programs
- Emotional and compassionate support
- Instrumental, including assisting with tasks
- Affiliation’s help in setting up community networks
The personal experiences of a peer support specialist can be very helpful to a participant seeking a role model. Sometimes just being with someone who has been through the painful recovery process and comes out the other side is an affirmation that they need to move forward. These are the sometimes intangible but always crucial mechanisms that aid in the recovery process.
Leveraging peer support specialists in addiction treatment is an important, but sometimes unrecognized part of the recovery process. A peer support specialist can provide facilities with a warm, human, reality-based voice that offers practical guidance in developing community support systems. While these are non-clinical caregivers, they play an important role in addiction treatment and recovery care modalities.
Integrated Healing Coaches
In the attempt to address addiction and mental health issues, New Life II utilizes trained Integrated Healing Coaches (IHC) to implement addiction recovery related support to participants. Our IHCs are people who are in recovery and have been trained to use their life experiences as tools to assist individuals in all stages of their recovery. Our IHCs are graduates of the Integrated Healing Coaches training provided by New Life II, and are certified by the Connecticut Certification Board. IHCs are available for one-to-one support to meet with an individual struggling with an addiction, mental health and reentry related issue.
New Life II’s IHC provide non-clinical, mutual peer-to-peer support to people whose lives have been affected by addiction, incarceration, trauma, and other life changing situations. Our team is comprised of individuals who draw from their own diverse experiences and backgrounds to build meaningful relationships. Participants come from throughout the state of Connecticut. The work we do is flexible and designed to meet the individual where they are in their recovery, with enthusiasm and understanding, and without pressure or judgment.
Training: New Life II provides the community with IHC training on a monthly basis at various community-based sites. Certified trainers educate participants on the competencies specific to work as an IHC.
Training participants learn to:
- Provide support in Reentry, Recovery, and Trauma informed engagement.
- Support each individual in identifying what is important to them and facilitate connections with their community and its resources.
- Provide supports, or act as liaisons to individuals or systems identified as needed by the individual.
- Provide transportation as needed to access resources.
- Provide culturally competent and person-centered services that promote personal recovery.
Tier System: Integrated Healing Coaches shall begin work with the participant using a tier system approach: Tier (1) Make contact with the participants at least four times a week for the first 45 days to a build a connection and rapport; Tier (2) The IHC and participant connect through trust and identify the resources in their community that will be of assistance. The IHC and participant will now meet twice a week; Tier (3) The participant has made the necessary changes in their life to effectively navigate the resources in their community with little to no assistance and meet with the IHC only as deemed necessary.
Examples of roles and responsibilities for an Integrated Healing Coach:
In practice, advocacy work encompasses both the work that peers do in fighting for what individuals want and the work that they do to provide individuals with the wherewithal to fight for themselves. They engage in advocacy work when they did things like answer questions or provide information, run a peer support group, work around goal setting and confidence building, and discuss stigma. Helping individuals navigate systems appeared to be a large component of advocacy.
Connecting to resources
Peers work to connect individuals to resources. Examples of this would include connecting individuals to paid and volunteer work opportunities and other activities, to housing, to transportation, to financial resources, and to sources of peer support and other support in the community.
Defined in the log instructions as “sharing common experiences; listening to individual’s experiences, and sharing one’s own experiences,” drawing upon their own life experiences in order to share their knowledge is a common element in everything that peers do—from running support groups to speaking with individuals one-on-one to educating staff.
Peers’ community building activities encompass two main aims: to establish a sense of community for individuals during their involvement in treatment and to help individuals make meaningful lives in the community. Peers build community when they invite individual participation and run groups in ways that made people feel comfortable and welcome—for example, by providing refreshments. Peers also do things like check in with individuals who had recently moved to new community housing and made recommendations for community-based programming.
Relationship building includes the work of initiating relationships with individuals, of establishing relationships, and of maintaining relationships. Among the specific activities that made up this type of work were the introductions of peers and individuals (usually either initiated by the peer or by another staff member,) conversations between peers and individuals in which peers give advice, act as a sounding board, or simply listen, making (and keeping) appointments with individuals, checking in with individuals who had not been in recent contact, and visiting individuals who had recently transitioned from treatment or incarceration to community or vice versa. Peers also build collective relationships with groups of individuals, generally in group settings.