Intentional Peer Support   

Intentional Peer Support (IPS) evolved out of the consumer activist movement in the States.

The person most responsible for bringing Intentional Peer Support to the world is  Shery Mead.

Shery evolved the kaupapa of IPS through observing the limitations of Medical Model treatment of mental distress where the whole emphasis of  "treatment" is to locate all the problems within the brain of the person receiving services: "What is wrong with you", rather than asking the obvious question of "What happened to you?".

The first approach focuses on giving the person a diagnosis and then seeing through this lens. When this happens, the "actual" person tends to get lost.

Taking the latter approach is referred to as "trauma-informed" i.e we are recognising that mental distress is much more likely to originate from a range of  traumatic experiences, rather than a biological "fault" with the brain.

This opens up the possibility to approach mental distress much more as a "human" problem, requiring a "human" rather than a medical solution.

IPS is seen as having four "tasks":

Connection, Worldview, Mutuality, Moving Towards

And three principles -

Moving from: Helping to Learning, Individual to Relationship, Fear to Hope

  • These approaches involve:

  • Looking at the power of language to define experience

  • Understanding trauma worldview and re-enactment

  • Rethinking old roles and ways of relating

  • Working towards shared responsibility in relationships

  • Examining power and privilege

  • Negotiating boundaries and limits

  • Navigating challenging scenarios

  • Understanding crisis as an opportunity

  • Using co-reflection to sustain values

  • Creating social change









What Is Peer Support Anyway?

What is this thing that we’re calling peer support?

Is it about being a paid friend? Not really. Is it about taking care of someone? Definitely not. Are you providing treatment? No. Are you connecting with someone in a way that contributes to both people learning and growing? That’s it!

So what makes this different from other kinds of help?

It’s about giving and receiving

This might not sound like a big deal, but for many people using mental health services, relationships have become all about getting: telling your problem story and then getting help with it. There is little, if any, emphasis placed on giving back. That’s a big deal! Service relationships are like a one-way street and both people’s roles are clearly defined. But in “regular” relationships in your community, people give and take all the time. No one is permanently on the taking side or the giving side. This exchange contributes to people feeling ok about being vulnerable (needing help) as well as confident about what they can offer. For many people using services, being in the role of ‘getter’ all the time has shaken our confidence, making us feel like we have nothing worthwhile to contribute. Peer support breaks that all down. It gets complicated somewhat when one of us is paid, but modelling this kind of relationship in which both of us learn, offers us the real practice we need in order to feel like a “regular” community member as opposed to an “integrated mental patient.”


“IPS offers a way of being in the world: whether or not we’re working in conventional or alternative mental health, which is congruent with a healing and recovery-based community. It can be life-changing”