OPDI member groups provide a wide range of supports and services to people who face mental health and addiction issues. These member-driven groups have “grown locally and organically” in response to the expressed wishes and needs of their ‘consumer’ communities, so their activities will be different from group to group. No matter what supports they offer, they have this in common: they all know, and indeed are themselves the living proof, that recovery is possible and achievable. And they all approach their activities from a peer support perspective.
OPDI Definition of Peer Support
OPDI defines peer support as follows:
Peer Support is a naturally occurring, mutually beneficial support process, where people who share a common experience meet as equals, sharing skills, strengths and hope; learning from each other how to cope, thrive and flourish.
Formalized Peer Support begins when persons with lived experience who have received specialized training, assume unique, designated roles within the mental health system, to support an individual’s expressed wishes.
Specialized Peer Support training is Peer developed, delivered and endorsed by Consumer/Survivor Initiatives*, Peer Support Organizations* and Patient Councils, and is rooted in principles of recovery, hope and individual empowerment.
* Consumer Survivor Initiatives and Peer Support Organizations are community-based, self-help organizations run by and for consumer/survivors.
Note: This definition of peer support was developed through the focus group/workshop/piloting process of creating the OPDI Peer Support Core Essentials™ Program. A draft was workshopped in a member consultation in 2010, further refined by a member working group, then adopted by electronic vote of the membership. We welcome and encourage you to use or reference this definition or provide links to this page, providing that OPDI is credited and the definition is provided unedited and in its entirety.
For over 20 years, people and communities have benefited by becoming involved with our member groups to experience peer support in a variety of ways.
- Through personal interaction with others who have ‘been there, done that’ when they gather in our members’ drop-ins, resource centres, or social/recreational programs.
- Peer support at this level, as described in the first paragraph of our definition, is much like any healthy friendship.
- Several member groups contract out peer workers to other local health services OPDI, through the above definition, posits that support at this level requires workers with a solid basic training, and accountability to a reputable peer support program.
- Whether training is developed internally, or through engagement of trainers from various recognized training providers. A few train peer workers for other programs in their communities.
- Visit Our Members page for a brief overview of what training they offer.
- click here to see an inventory and description of available types of training.
- Keep in mind some training programs have a specialized focus or purpose and are best implemented after a basic peer training and/or some solid work experience.
- It is the position of OPDI and its membership that peer support training should be created and taught by peers, to peers (people who themselves have, or have had, a mental health issue) and that programs organizing training should use only trainers who are authorized by the training institutes.
OPDI Peer Support Core Essentials™ Program
Most of our members have a 20+-year track record of providing excellent peer support, and in some cases peer training. Still, as the evidence grew showing peer support to be extremely effective in terms of outcomes and return on investment, it became clear that expanding interest and demand would require more consistency in peer training. Members asked for the creation of a training program in 2005, and we were successful in securing two-year funds from Ontario Trillium Foundation in 2008.
We engaged a consultant group who conducted an extensive consultative process to identify what was needed, drafted a training program complete with train the trainer, and piloted/adjusted the curriculum at two intervals. An independent contractor evaluated the training with participants and trainers, and this informed further refinements to the program.
In total, we have trained 176 peers across Ontario and have issued “OPDI Certified Peer Supporter” status to 30, while an estimated 20 are completing internships to reach that level. A further 118 are at the 1R level, meaning the trainer recommended them as ready to do an internship and earn their certificates.
Ten individuals completed trainer training, and it was they who delivered training, with support and supervision, to most of the others. In March of 2012 we began training another seven trainers, and we look forward to providing them the opportunity to complete their trainer training by co-facilitating classes alongside our original ten.
About the training program
OPDI Peer Support Core Essentials™ Program is just that – a solid foundational training for peer supporters. Our training manual cover sums it up best:
This training program has been developed in consultation with the subject experts: Consumer/Survivor Initiatives and Peer Support Organizations across Ontario. Its focus is on strengthening and nurturing what is at the core of peer support: the peer supporter.
OPDI Peer Support Core Essentials™ Program involves five full days face-to-face in the classroom with two trainers. There are many individual exercises, group exercises and role plays in class time, and daily written reflections assigned as homework. Prior to classroom training, a required introductory module is delivered via one webinar by OPDI staff. Then, some content from other modules is introduced in subsequent webinars with trainers. Homework (information gathering) is assigned to be brought for use in class. Participants are evaluated by the trainers, and can earn Level 1 or 1R recognition document. Level 1 means the person successfully completed the classroom training. Level 1R means the trainer recommends them to continue on and do an internship in order to earn their Level 2, or “OPDI Certified Peer Supporter”.
Note on Training
* Note: This training does not attempt to be all things to all people. Some peer support roles require specialized skills that are not required in most settings. Other topics that might be important in many settings, require more intensive training beyond basics. For these reasons, this training focuses on the core skills, introducing such topics and pointing toward other learning resources. Diagnostic and pharmaceutical information is readily available, constantly changing, and of limited relevance to peer support relationships, therefore in response to member wishes are not included in this training. OPDI will seek funding and partnership opportunities to develop additional modules and continuing education pieces for specific skills or settings.
Other OPDI Training
Diabetes and Mental Health Peer Support Project
The first additional module was developed in a two-year partnership project led by Canadian Mental Health Association and funded by the Lawson Foundation. Recognizing the significantly elevated risk factors for diabetes among the population affected by mental health issues, and knowing the power of peer support, it was felt that peer workers, armed with knowledge about diabetes, would be ideally positioned to support people with prevention, recognition and self-management of diabetes. The project undertook to create a two-day training using the same consultative approach as the Core Essentials program used, and leveraging from trainers that OPDI already has in place. Seven of our first ten Core Essentials trainers were trained to deliver the diabetes training, and in total 80 peer supporters across Ontario to date were trained to provide diabetes support to their peers. The project highly recommends anyone taking the diabetes training should have a good basic training and experience in peer support before taking this module.
The project was completed in March 2011, and future implementation of training will rest with OPDI. There is an entire website, hosted by CMHA ON, dedicated to disseminating information about this training. Please visit http://www.diabetesandmentalhealth.ca/