Peer Support and Peer Involvement

trauma-7.jpgDomestic violence services emerged from a peer-based movement — a movement of people who had experienced abuse. Similarly, the substance abuse field was strongly influenced by the 12-step movement, which was peer-driven, and many people in the field are also in recovery. In both arenas, practice evolved from the stories of people with lived experiences and their allies. Within the peer movement in mental health (also referred to as the consumer, ex-patient, or survivor movement) there is a long tradition of people diagnosed with mental illnesses advocating for their rights.

The trauma-informed approach in mental health owes a debt of gratitude to the peer movement. The struggle of the activists who built this movement for the right to name their experience and control their lives was the foundation on which trauma-informed care was built. Many of the early mental health reformers were women who were abused twice—first at home by their abusers, and then by the mental health system (often after being committed by the people who were abusing them). Their experiences serve as a reminder that trauma-informed services are as much about social justice as they are about healing. Confronting the misuse of power, unearthing the roots of violence and coercion, and advocating for social change are as important as (and interdependent with) healing the personal consequences of abuse.

Peer support can be an important resource for DV agencies, whether it takes the form of independent peer-run programs, self-help and mutual support groups, or services delivered by peers working within mental health organizations. Through the establishment of collaborative relationships with peer support providers, DV advocates can increase their own understanding of mental health and psychiatric disability and develop their skills for supporting survivors who are experiencing a mental health crisis or who need emotional support, while also sharing their knowledge about trauma and domestic violence.


In this video, residents and staff describe the programs and structure of the Peer Support and Wellness Center in the Metro Atlanta Area.


Healing Self-Injury 
This website describes how self-inflicted violence (SIV) is a common means of managing the after-effects of traumatic experiences, serving to temporarily manage many of the emotional struggles that stem from unhealed trauma. Most people living with self-injury have experienced abuse. Once understood in context, SIV can be healed by acknowledging the needs it serves and addressing the trauma from which it springs. The website includes resources, FAQs, survivor expressions, and a blog.