Karma Lohrenz and Jessie Taylor fill the role of Peer Support Specialist at DCCCA and spend their days walking side by side with clients in recovery. No matter if individuals are taking their first step to social detox or working on a successful long term recovery in their community, these women, and the many other Peer Support Specialists at DCCCA, are there to support and encourage them.
Peer Support Specialists are an integral part of behavioral health treatment. While especially important and effective in the early stages of recovery, peer support is available to help clients at all stages maintain a healthy life in recovery. Peer Support Specialists have lived experience in long term recovery which makes it possible to engage clients in building long term recovery by offering a level of credibility that can only come from that lived experience.
The Role of a Peer Support Specialist
But what is a Peer Support Specialist? They aren’t a therapist or a case manager so what role do they fill?
There are many ways that Peer Specialists work in tandem with the rest of the treatment team to support clients through their recovery at DCCCA:
- Recovery Support: Demonstrating support available to clients throughout community (12 step meetings and other recovery related sources), and facilitating Peer support groups
- Problem Solving: Helping clients with everyday problems that may arise during their recovery (possible triggers, family/friend substance use etc.)
- Community Support: Sharing life skills information on employment, parenting classes, housing, income/financial management, and medical needs
- Motivation: Using regular communication and encouragement to assist clients with skills to continue their recovery
- Partnership: Working alongside clients and building trust that aides in recovery
Using Experience to Offer Support
At DCCCA, we employ Peer Support Specialists in our Lawrence Outpatient, First Step at Lake View, and DCCCA Pratt locations, but they are utilized in different ways. In Lawrence, individuals that arrive in the Emergency Room at LMH Health in need of treatment can access Peer Support Services from DCCCA 24 hours a day Monday through Saturday. Karma Lohrenz, who offices at First Step at Lake View, is one of our Peer Support Specialists available 8-5 Monday through Friday to assist those individuals who arrive at the ER and need social detox or treatment. Karma meets them at the hospital and once an appropriate plan has been decided, helps them to locate an available bed in Social Detox and drives them to their destination. “I can offer them my experience, I can show them that life can turn around, and maybe that helps them take that first step.” Karma states she is also available to pick individuals up at the end of their initial treatment and help them transition to the next stage of their recovery process, “It helps to bridge the gap; I’m someone that is constant throughout their transition and my experience makes me a comfortable option”.
Navigating Life in Recovery Side by Side
At DCCCA Lawrence Outpatient Services and DCCCA Pratt Peer Specialists help clients by assisting with life skills that can be overwhelming while navigating recovery. Jessie Taylor, a Peer Support Specialist in Pratt, says that “Without a foundation recovery is more difficult; I can walk along side clients helping them navigate basic life skills”. Peer Support Specialists like Jessie work with clients during the later stages of their recovery and assist with everything from job skills and finding stable work, to working on recovery Step work, to finding a recovery meeting that fits their style and their comfort level, and finding resources that help with financial difficulties that often occur as a result of long term substance use. Karma points out that the clients at First Step at Lake View that she works with who are further along in their recovery can benefit from her knowledge of different groups and her experience that lets them know “you might not find the right group on the first try and it is okay to keep trying to find the right fit to support your recovery.”
Peer Support Specialists and Recovery
Both Karma and Jessie say that their own recovery is directly impacted by their role as a Peer Support Specialist. Both women talked about daily interaction with clients keeping their own recovery in the forefront of their minds. “Helping others is huge for me, it keeps me grateful. I can be proud of where I’m at while still remembering the desperation and the struggle that is so real”, Jessie tells me. “Working with our clients allows me to be myself, I’m an open book”, says Karma, “I am reminded every day how grateful I am for the strong foundation that supports my own recovery.”
DCCCA is proud to offer Peer Support Services to our clients as part of a treatment philosophy that addresses the needs of the whole person, not just their substance use. To read more about our Behavioral Health Services we invite you to visit their pages on this website.