Mindfully Well Peer Support Groups
Every Monday and Friday at 1:00pm (except holidays), Mindfully Well hosts free online Peer Support Groups for people with lived experience with Mental Health.
We generally start our groups with a short mindfulness practice such as engaging our senses, connecting to our bodies or focussing on our breath. We often have a particular topic or theme that we discuss, such as coping skills, self-compassion or vulnerability factors. Each person who wishes to share is given that opportunity. You may share based on the topic/theme or choose to talk about whatever is on your mind. In consideration of our peers, however, we do not discuss trauma details and we refer to traumatic experiences only in general terms such as “the assault”. After a person has shared, if they are open to receiving feedback, group members may take turns providing compassion, support, validation or suggestions of skills/resources that have been helpful for them while experiencing similar feelings. There is no pressure or expectation to share or to receive/provide feedback. We welcome you to join us wherever you’re at and to participate as much or as little as you choose. The group generally ends with an affirmation, skill suggestion or something else to carry with you throughout your day.
What is Peer Support?
Peer Support is a modality of recovery that involves connecting people who share a common lived experience, such as mental health challenges. Trained peer support workers are able to relate to, empower and provide hope to others. By sharing our similar lived experiences, two or more individuals can encourage and support one another through recovery and its related challenges. It is proven that connection aids in recovery. Peer support is rooted in connecting likeminded individuals in hopes of nurturing mutual recovery and success.
Peer support is not therapy or a replacement for professional mental health treatment. Peer support workers are not counsellors or social workers. Peer support workers are humans who have survived the worst experiences of their lives and come out the other side with increased knowledge, understanding, skills, resources and resilience.
How does peer support work?
Peer support begins by bringing together two or more individuals with mutual lived experience. A peer support worker is then able to offer practical solutions to mental health challenges by sharing their own similar experiences. The peer support worker validates those seeking help by showing that recovery is possible. This is often done in one-on-one sessions, in in-person group settings, or online in group settings. Mindfully Well is currently offering only online peer support groups. In the future, however, we hope to offer scheduled one-to-one peer support and eventually in-person peer support options. A peer support worker will share their own experiences, coping strategies, resources, and suggestions – by doing this, a peer support worker will walk alongside individuals navigating recovery.
Why Peer Support?
Life is hard. Mental illness can make it a lot harder. We strongly suggest that people engage in whatever mental health programs or treatment options are effective for them. We also encourage reaching out and connecting with supportive friends or family members if you can. Sometimes that doesn’t feel like it’s enough though. Sometimes, advice or feedback from friends/family regarding our struggles isn’t necessarily the most helpful. Sometimes it might even be harmful. In peer support, we aren’t told what to do or given advice on how to “fix” ourselves or problems in our lives. We receive compassionate and validating responses like “Wow. That really sucks. I couldn’t imagine what that must have felt like!” rather than invalidating comments like “It could have been worse”, “there’s nothing to worry about”, “You just need to be more positive” or being told what we should or shouldn’t think, feel, do or say. It can be so refreshing to spend some time just existing as humans in a shared space with other people who “get it”. Connecting with others who are going through similar struggles or who have similarly struggled in the past can be really comforting and help us to feel like we aren’t going through this alone.
How is Peer Support Helpful in Comparison to Other Mental Health Services?
Peer support is unique in its ability to offer realistic solutions to mental health challenges without being overly clinical. Due to its flexible nature, peer support helps empower individuals to take control of their own recoveries and utilize solutions tailored to their unique needs. Peer support workers are able to create relationships built on client empowerment and self-driven recovery. Studies have shown that clients who choose peer support are able to navigate their mental health challenges more successfully than those who do not utilize peer support resources.