Peer Support Training

As some of you might have read in my last post, I spent last week up in Chicago taking the Peer Support Specialist Core Training. Holy cow; what a nearly indescribable week it was!

Day 1: There were 22 of us, with two instructors. We spent the morning talking about the definitions of the Peer Support Specialist (which we fine-tuned throughout the week) and shared our recovery stories towards the afternoon. To say that we gained a closeness almost immediately that afternoon is an understatement. Where can you walk into a room of more than 20 people, and share your struggle and recovery story within the first 8 hours of your acquaintance? Here. That’s where. It was hard for me to share it all, as I’m sure it was for everyone else, maybe even more so… but ultimately, it brought us together. Stories of the lowest lows and the highest highs, and the constant struggle between. The two steps forward, and one step back.

Day 2: There were 20 of us (sometimes it’s just not the right time, or place to be able to commit to such an intense week of training), and our two instructors. We spent the day talking about promoting recovery and asking the right questions. (Amanda Palmer’s [feminist, artist, musician, mother, and all around amazing woman; here’s her TEDTalk] book called The Art of Asking comes to mind here, for many reasons) We ended the day talking about Negative Self Talk, which was so incredibly triggering and difficult for me, because I honestly cannot remember a time in my life when I was not effected by it.

Day 3: 20 of us spoke about fears. We debated the positives and negatives of individual therapy as well as support groups. We examined the benefits of scripted groups versus free form groups.

Day 4: We continued our quest to learn how to ask the right questions, and talked about ethics, integrity, power and conflict.

Day 5: We picnicked in the Art Institute gardens for lunch, and unpacked cultural competency, the recovery process and how to outline steps to creating the life we want. And we said good bye.

Each day we left exhausted, but fulfilled. We had explored different points of view on every topic under the sun, and learned more about each other, our backgrounds, our beliefs, our foundations…

On Friday morning, when I awoke, after I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and planted my feet on the floor, tears sprang to my eyes as I realized that this was the last day we, 20 students and 2 instructors, would sit in this room together. In these four walls of trust and love and appreciation and understanding.

When I arrived at 55 East Jackson, the elevators opened up onto the 10th floor and I heard a group of people laughing. I recognized the voices immediately, and I was flooded with happiness. This was just as important as the content in our textbook. This camaraderie. My heart is so full.

For five days, we learned & taught; shared & listened; questioned & understood; we moved forward.

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