Informal Peer Support

Yesterday I spoke at a conference where the audience was fun, positive and energetic. You’d never guess that they are managers in an agency that is dealing with details of horrible trauma on a daily basis. And because they are managers, they are stuck in the middle between the front line employees and the executive level, which (as anyone who has been in mid-level management can tell you) is a lonely job. There is a high level of organizational stress because of trying to juggle many competing demands from case-load to administration, and from managing human resources to dealing with external agencies that sometimes work at cross purposes.

Being the only manager in a satellite office magnifies the feeling of being alone and feeling a lack of support at times. That’s why this conference was so healthy and positive for these managers. It gave them an opportunity to network with other people that are in the same boat. The theme of the conference was Resiliency, and I really believe it boosted the resiliency of the already very resilient group. And not that I want to downplay my own contribution to the conference, but I think the part that provided the most value was the networking. Not because they need to trade best practices, but because of the support system it provides. The managers, who are normally on their own, now have a group of peers that understand exactly what they are going through. That is often better than a professional counsellor. These managers get each other. They are able to vent and have their feelings validated by others that know exactly what they are talking about. This is extremely healthy.

Just knowing that you’re not alone and that there are others who are there to listen and who really understand your struggles, can have a significant impact on lowering the amount of distress that you’re feeling.

Peer Support doesn’t have to be a formal program to have a positive impact. Sometimes having a glass of wine together after the days sessions, and venting together and laughing together can provide a huge psychological boost.

I really hope they stay in touch with each other, and continue to be an informal peer support network.