The Impact of Being in Community with Peers: Hope and Healing

When we hear about formal treatment programs for more serious substance problems, we often hear things getting highlighted like the qualifications of staff, their education, experience, credentials, length of service and so forth.

What we don’t often hear is something that comes up repeatedly in exit interviews, satisfaction surveys and feedback forms:  the impact of being in community with peers.

Hope and healing can be found when we are with others who are like us.

The newcomer in a treatment setting often feels unsure, hesitant, and guarded.  They often sit back and watch what happens. And it’s very common for the newcomer to be amazed at the ones who have been there longer saying things that show the newcomer they are in the right place.  Understanding.  Being understood.  Identification.  Relating.  And hearing their peers share stories so similar to their own – that they could have shared themselves.

That kind of experience really helps the person find some hope and start the healing process.

Staff of all different kinds (kitchen, housekeeping, nursing, counseling, facilities, etc.) make their own difference doing what they do.  And all of that effort comes together.  But who is available in-the-moment?  Who can relate exactly and right now?  And in the exact way?  Peers.

When a peer who has been there longer does their work, it’s modeling for all the others how it can be done.  This helps everyone around them.  Lots of times that’s taken for granted – except by the newer one that really needed to see it and to hear it the most.

  • Watching others take risks and work a program can provide the boost to find acceptance of ourselves
  • Confidence to give it a try
  • The courage to see if it will work
  • Putting in footwork, not just having hope
  • Finding out it’s ok to try and to get support no matter what

It would be natural to hear something skeptically from an employee.  But it can also be natural to listen best to a peer.  Lots of times we’ll accept a message from a peer that we wouldn’t normally accept or take in from anyone else.

Sometimes being away from home, with a relative stranger, shows us we are trustworthy and even in our darkest moments have something to offer others.  And that they have something to offer us.  In moments like that we find that being confided in is an amazing experience, and it can also show us how to trust.  And move forward.

We learn to learn from differences, and from disagreements.  We learn to benefit from small struggles in relationships.  And we find out how to navigate ourselves – rather than get so triggered.

Relationships in a community of our peers can make a difference.  The difference.  All the difference.