Values and Structures of Peer-Run Programs

The best way to understand the values of peer-run mental health programs is to experience them first hand by visiting one of Virginia’s more than 20 independent locations in Virginia.  Browse our directory of peer-run programs in Virginia.

The National Empowerment Center has a list of Peer-Run respites in the United States as well as a list of the statewide consumer networks. Peers for Progress has an extensive directory of peer health programs around the world.

Generally, peer-run programs:

– are led by a board of directors where the majority of people have experience with mental health challenges
– are staffed by peers who have experience with mental health challenges
– board and staff have full, independent control over budget and hiring decisions within the constraints of the law
– model equality and mutuality, with member input into the functioning of the program
– provide supports motivated by empowering peers with skills and hope to make their own choices, not doing for or providing advice
– operate within values agreed on by the International Association of Peer Supporters:

1. Peer support is voluntary
2. Peer supporters are hopeful
3. Peer supports are open minded
4. Peer supporters are empathetic
5. Peer supports are respectful
6. Peer supporters facilitate change
7. Peer supporters are honest and direct
8. Peer support is mutual and reciprocal
9. Peer support is equally shared power
10. Peer support is strengths-focused
11. Peer support is transparent
12. Peer support is person-driven

Evidence for Peer-Run Programs

OOORV testimonialsFirst-Person Stories

On a bulletin board at On Our Own of Roanoke, colorful surveys share powerful answers to three simple questions: “Has On Our Own changed your life? How? Why?” Download the simple survey form here for your Peer-Run Program.

Gave me a sense of purpose. Helped me stay clean and sober for more than a year now.

Given me a sense of dignity, confidence and self-esteem.

I put the work in.

First-person stories are some of the most powerful evidence of the transformational power of peer support. Visit VOCAL’s Stories page for more resources on first-person story telling about mental health.

Scientific Evidence

Peer-Run Programs are also an Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) when they follow certain standards. The “Consumer Operated Services Program (COSP) Multi-site Research Initiative (1998-2007)” showed peer-run programs help people in recovery and can reduce their use of hospital, crisis, and other expensive services.

As more peers continue to be hired into traditional mental health care systems, it is essential to understand the specific values, structures and practices that make peer-run programs transformational places. Simply placing one or two peer workers into a hierarchical, medical model system does not a peer-run program make.

Practices of Peer-Run Programs

Programs operate in many different ways to meet unmet needs in their local communities.

Warm Lines – a phone line staffed by peers where people can find support and avoid crisis.

Peer Respites and other Crisis Alternative Programs

Drop-In or Recovery Centers

What needs do you see in your community? To learn more about starting a peer-run program, see VOCAL’s “Options for Organizing” page.