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Disability Rights of West Virginia

Peer Support:  How Can it
Change your Road to Recovery?

Article by:  Kayla Straight, Peer Services Navigator for NAMI Greater Wheeling

Peer support is a new concept being implemented in both mental health and substance use recovery in the United States. An evidence-based support, it is growing in popularity and accessibility around the state of West Virginia. 

The Importance of Peer Support

Among the forms of Peer Recovery Support Specialists and Recovery Coaches, these individuals all have something in common - lived experience. The fundamental prerequisite to becoming a Peer Supporter is that the peer has personally experienced the struggles associated with mental health or substance use recovery in their own lives. It is these experiences that drive the individuals to want to give back to their communities and help others experiencing similar struggles that they themselves have overcome. 

What is the Role of a Peer Supporter?

The main role of a Peer Supporter is to offer acceptance and use their knowledge from lived experience to assist other people in continuing their recovery journeys. Peer Supporters subscribe to the ideals that all roads to recovery are valid and are advocates of support in a recovering person’s corner. Peer Supporters help the individuals they serve to access the services they desire in support of their recovery. These services range from acquiring mental health counseling, accessing medication assisted treatment, navigating WVDHHR benefits, and connecting with other resources in their local communities.

Peer Supporters:​

  • give hope that people can and do recover

  • travel alongside a person while they navigate their path to recovery

  • provide linkage to resources, information, and recovery supports

  • support a peer’s goals in recovery, education, advocacy, and change

  • empower those they work with to be active members in the planning, execution, and implementation of their recovery treatment

  • increase self-esteem and self-worth within those they support

The Benefits of Working with Peer Support

In life, we all face struggles and our own forms of adversity. Many times during those struggles the most crucial piece in the puzzle to recovery is to have a strong foundation of support in our lives. Peer Supporters can play a critical role in forming that strong foundation. Not only do Peer Supporters offer help to their peers through information and referral services, but they are also an impartial player in the peer’s life.


The only aspect that the Peer Supporter is invested in is the supporting of their client’s road to recovery, so the Peer Supporter provides a safe place for a person to talk about ideas, fears, achievements, regrets, and daily life without the worry of facing stigma or the judgment. Often in recovery we find ourselves struggling and are afraid to reach out and risk disappointing our loved ones with a relapse or mistake. Peer Supports are always there to offer support to the people they serve and are a safe first place to start when a problem may arise..

SAMHSA has shown that working with Peer Support:

  • Increases social functioning and community involvement

  • Increases quality of life

  • Improves relationships with treatment providers

  • Increases housing stability

  • Increased satisfaction with care

  • Decreases criminal justice involvement

  • Decreases relapses

  • Decreases Psychiatric symptoms

  • Reduces hospital admissions and lengths of stay

  • Lowers substance use and instances of depression during treatment

How to Locate a Peer Supporter near You

As the field of Peer Support continues to grow, the availability of Peer Supporters is becoming more accessible.  Peer Recovery Supporters can be found at substance use recovery facilities like withdrawal centers, inpatient rehabilitation centers, and sober living homes.  Mental Health Recovery Coaches are housed within counseling centers, inpatient treatment venues, and with local sites of national organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). 


You may also be able to get connected with peer support though your health insurance carrier, 844-HELP4WV, or the crisis lifeline 988.

Client Comments

Why we do what we do

"My advocate attends meetings, reviews my finances and either visits or calls to conduct wellness/needs checks."

"Disability Rights is always helpful."

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