Ryther’s Transitional Community Treatment (TCT) programs are a group of programs that serve young adults, many of whom are experiencing homelessness along with struggles with their mental health. Many TCT programs serve young adults with a team of professionals supporting each client in meeting their goals. One of these team members is the Peer Partner, a unique role that sets Ryther’s services apart from other mental health providers. We now have Peer Partners working in three of Ryther’s programs: First Episode Psychosis (FEP), Wraparound Intensive Services (WISe), and Stepping Stones. The Peer Partner is someone who has lived experience with the same thing that their peers—the individuals receiving services at Ryther—are struggling with. Using their lived experience, the Peer Partner offers their peers hope by being someone to walk aside them on their journey to healing. They may share resources, help their peers self-advocate during treatment, or even just offer a sense of stability through social connection. Because they are not coming from a clinical perspective, their peers often find it easier to relate and open up. This individual serves as a counselor; not a therapist providing clinical services.
Kea, a Peer Partner in our FEP program, explained how they assist their peers by sharing an example of their work. They were in a therapy session with one of their peers when Kea noticed the therapist was talking quickly and their peer seemed to be struggling to understand. From their own lived experience, they knew that when experiencing psychosis, it can be difficult to hear and process words. Because of their personal experience with psychosis, Kea was able to alert the therapist that their peer might be struggling to keep up and that she should slow her speaking down. This allowed their peer to be able to process the therapist’s words, and might not have been caught so quickly without a peer partner.
This is an integral role on all of our care teams that have Peer Partners. Most of our staff on these teams come from clinical backgrounds, but having someone who has gone through the same thing as the young adults that we serve is incredibly valuable. No amount of education can replace the lived experience, and by bringing together both, Ryther is truly able to serve our clients best.