A Brief History of Peer Support in Behavioral Health
Many people think that peer support services are a relatively recent development within behavioral health, emerging from the Mental Health Consumer and New Recovery Advocacy movements in the early 1990s. In reality, the history of what we now refer to as peer support spans centuries, crosses continents, engages a wide array of treatment settings, and is shaped by the diverse culture and norms of the communities it benefits.
The new wave of peer support services in mental health emerged from the consumer, survivor, and ex-patient movements that began in the 1960s, around the same time as the civil rights movement, gay rights, the women’s movement, and the Native American movements. The movements were fights for self-determination driven by anger about inhumane treatment and oppression.
In the early 1990s, peer support emerged in its contemporary form in mental health and has virtually exploded across the country, with the number of peer staff in mental health programs reaching the tens of thousands. Peer staff fulfill a variety of roles and serve numerous functions in these programs, from providing traditional services (such as case management or residential support) to offering entirely new services (such as teaching people how to use Wellness Recovery Action Plans).
Although the New Recovery Advocacy Movement is a relatively recent development in the addiction field, earlier forms of peer support by and for people with addictions have existed at least since the early 1800s.
In its contemporary form, recovery coaching in addiction, build on this rich history to provide an important complement to existing substance use disorder treatment programs. Peer recovery support can be provided as an effective bridge into treatment, as a potent augmentation to treatment, and as a valuable post-treatment resource that enables people to maintain the gains they have made in treatment, thus helping people to initiate, achieve, and sustain recovery. Peer-delivered recovery support services have proliferated throughout the United States over the last decade and have a pivotal role in combatting the current overdose trends.
Reach Out For Help
If you or a loved one needs help, please feel free to reach out to one of our Peer Recovery Support Specialists for more information.