Spring 2017 Spotlight
Peer Support in Early Intervention in Psychosis
The last decade has seen a significant growth in peer involvement and leadership in youth mental health. While few states have dedicated youth peer specialist training programs, many transition aged youth (TAY) and young adult service organizations directly train and employ young adults as support workers. In early intervention for psychosis services, peer involvement has become an important component. Given the large emphasis early intervention services place on helping young people remain active and engaged in their communities, peer involvement offers a unique support for social and interpersonal engagement. The EIP would like to highlight the importance of peer involvement and leadership in early intervention settings and offer resources on planning, employing, and incorporating a peer support specialist into an early intervention team.
Peer Engagement and Leadership: An Interview with Dr. Nev Jones
Dr. Nev Jones is a mental health services researcher, peer advocate, and policy consultant. Much of her recent work has revolved around systems-level policy and program development for early intervention in psychosis, including increased peer engagement and leadership and greater attention to barriers clients face in educational and employment settings. Dr. Jones is considered one of the leading researchers on peer involvement in early intervention in psychosis, and the nation's expert on implementing peer specialists within mental health settings. The EIP outreach and education team had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Jones about peer engagement and leadership in an early intervention setting, who shared important considerations for implementation based on past successes and barriers experienced.
Dr. Jones began her work in peer support during her graduate school career under the mentorship of Dr. Patrick Corrigan. Dr. Jones noted that it was during this time she founded the Chicago Hearing Voices, a community-based program designed to change cultural attitudes about hearing voices and psychosis, and as such, in parallel to her research, was running and facilitating multiple peer support groups. Dr. Jones explained that towards the end of her doctoral program she became interested in peer support within early intervention in psychosis specifically and has continued to pursue this interest throughout her career.
Dr. Jones emphasized throughout the interview the importance of having a peer support component in an early intervention setting. She explained that from a consumer perspective, while the clinicians are nice and fully competent, many consumers felt that "there was a deeper, much more real compassion and concern coming from the peer specialist." Dr. Jones went on to say that other consumers have spoken about peer support groups and how these groups enable them to meet other young people in the program; in many cases, they actually develop friendships. Comments from consumers like "they really got it" and "they understood me in a different kind of way from the clinicians" are ones Dr. Jones hears often.
Dr. Jones did acknowledge the challenges of implementing a peer support specialist into an early intervention team, highlighting four main barriers: 1) Most early intervention program models did not originally include a peer support component; 2) There is not a standardized empirically based training for peer support specialists; 3) Supervisors within early intervention settings do not have training on supervising a peer specialist; and 4) It can be difficult to find a young adult peer specialist with personal experience of psychosis specifically.
Despite these challenges, however, Dr. Jones seemed hopeful in the interview, noting that the field of early intervention is quickly adapting to new models to include peer support, with many efforts being made to create a more standardized training of peer specialists. Dr. Jones also mentioned her creation of a Google group listserv for peer specialists working in early intervention from around the country. It provides a forum for peer specialists to talk, share materials, and be connected to the peer workforce. Dr. Jones concluded the interview with a message of change, "let's change the core model" of early intervention services, so that peer support is viewed as an essential component to early psychosis intervention.
Understanding My Voices: Shared Experiences through Peer Support
Peer support groups for people who hear voices have been found to contribute significantly to the recovery trajectory of the members who attend them. Amanda Lipp and Chris Ferrell, associated with the PREP early intervention program located in California, created a cartoon highlighting the benefits of a peer support group in relatable graphics for teenagers. The cartoon discusses the experience of hearing voices in a destigmatizing way and exemplifies the important role a peer specialist can have in early intervention services.
The cartoon highlights the role of a peer specialist, who can use their personal experiences, such as voices, paranoia, and unusual beliefs, to help their clients. Peer specialists can also organize groups and events or meet with clients one-on-one. The cartoon concludes that meeting with your peer specialist does not mean you have to talk about your experience or treatment; "they're simply there to meet you where you are."
From Planning to Peer Support and Evaluation
Dr. Nev Jones created a valuable guide on peer involvement and leadership in early intervention in psychosis services. The goal of the guide is to provide a wide range of resources for different stakeholders engaged in early intervention for psychosis, including state-level administrators, peer and family advocates, young people, as well as anyone with interest in youth and peer involvement. It also includes information and best practices for peer support and leadership.
The guide includes many concrete examples of innovative individuals, services, and projects, as well as a comprehensive appendix of resources at the end. The guide covers a broad range of domains in which peers might assume leadership or advisory roles, including program development and planning, direct service delivery, public outreach and engagement, clinician education, and quality improvement and evaluation.
Click here for the Guide
Effectively Employing Young Adult Peer Providers
The University of Massachusetts Medical School, Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center (SPARC), have developed a toolkit specifically for provider organizations that employ or want to employ young adult peer providers. Topics within the toolkit include supervising young adult peer providers, establishing a supportive organizational culture, preparing and engaging non-peer staff, hiring and training young adult peers, and addressing significant job difficulties. To access the toolkit click here!
EIP and Partner Updates
Program Highlight: Maryland Healthy Transitions (MD-HT)
It can take several years from the first onset of challenges and/or symptoms until a young person receives appropriate intervention. Maryland is raising awareness of mental health challenges encountered by transition-aged youth (TAY), 16 to 25 years old, by providing services and support to meet their needs. There is access to appropriate treatment and intervention through Maryland Healthy Transitions (MD-HT). The MD-HT is a program designed to serve TAY who may potentially be at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders. Counties and corresponding providers for services are Humanim in Howard County (443-902-5603) and Pathways (240-587-8047) in the Tri-County Region of Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s.
For more information on outreach and education, contact Sylvia McCree-Huntley, 410-706-0981.
Webinar: A Future for Early Intervention?
The National Empowerment Center, Inc. hosted a webinar: A Future for Early Intervention? Lessons Learned and the Potential Transformation of Specialized Early Psychosis Services. The webinar explored contemporary practices in specialized early psychosis with a focus on the service gaps within trauma, peer support, and ethnic/racial disparities/cultural humility. Additional topics included current practice innovations and described an agenda for increased peer leadership and transformative change within early intervention.
In case you missed the webinar you can find here the presenter slides and a video of the webinar!
Celebrate Children's Mental Health Awareness Week!
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and May 1-7 is Children's Mental Health Awareness Week!
On Thursday, May 4, 2017, join the Maryland Early Intervention Program, friends, and family for two events, hosted by UMBC's YouthFIRST Team, located on the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus to raise awareness for young people's mental health.
1) 12 pm, Thursday, May 4, UMBC Flashmob
Join us for the fourth annual UMBC Mental Health Awareness Flashmob. Meet at NOON in the Plaza between University Center and the Math/Psych building (outside Starbucks and Chik-fil-A) for what is always a fun time!
2) 4 pm, Thursday, May 4, UMBC Mental Health Panel
At 4pm in the University Center, room 310, there will be a panel of four brave young adults sharing their amazing stories related to mental health and breaking down the stigma of mental health. First-come, first-seated (seating is limited). Refreshments and NAMI bake sale to follow.
Peer Services for Young Adults Workgroup
The workgroup is planning on meeting monthly to focus on leveraging current opportunities for peer supports in EIP and other organizations that could benefit from peer support. If you’re interested in joining the peer-involvement workgroup, please contact Melanie Bennett.
Access the original peer-support for FEP guidance manual developed by Dr. Jones.