Peer Support Specialists: Providing a Crucial Link to Multiple Recovery Pathways
Lindsay Brown, certified peer recovery support specialist, uses her life experience to coach individuals in recovery.
As a certified peer recovery support specialist (CPRSS), Lindsay Brown has become a role model for many. The lead recovery coach at Boise’s Center for Behavioral Health, she helps individuals living with a substance use disorder or mental health diagnosis develop strategies to reduce harm to themselves and lead healthier lives. Sometimes this support manifests as a conversation about goals or priorities; sometimes it entails accompanying a peer to the gym to complete a work-out routine; often it means listening to somebody’s story or sharing her own.
“I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years who have told me, ‘I want to do what you do.’ And I think that’s great,” says Brown. “But I like to remind people: If you are going to do this kind of work, you have to be on top of your own recovery 24/7.”
Brown is in long-term recovery herself. A two-time survivor of accidental overdose and sober since March 25, 2017, she knows firsthand what it’s like to live, breathe and face daily life with a substance use disorder. That knowledge motivated her to become a certified peer support specialist, someone trained to use their experience with substance use and/or co-occurring mental health disorders to support others starting out in recovery.
“There’s a lot of guilt and shame that comes along with sharing the things you go through as a person with a substance use disorder,” Brown says. “To talk to somebody else who really gets it, who has been where you’ve been, and has also been trained to help you by utilizing their story — it makes a world of difference.”
Lindsay Brown, CPSS
Former Lead Recovery Coach, Center for Behavioral Health, Boise
Peer Support Specialists: A Mile Marker on the Road to Recovery
Individuals seeking an entrance into long-term recovery aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from peer recovery support services. Success in recovery is about accessing the right help in the right place at the right time, but for many it can also depend on the continuity of care available between individual members of a healthcare team.
“Many people I work with are able to get out of their cycle of addiction, only to get into another cycle—that of treatment,” Brown says.
Substance use recurrence, for many, plays a role in the recovery journey. Consequently, it’s not uncommon for individuals looking to implement a behavior change to undergo the same treatment program multiple times. Because peer recovery support specialists are also in long-term recovery, it often means they’ve accessed the resources and services they’re helping connect their peers to. At the same time, they are as much a part of that individual’s healthcare team as the counselors, therapists, physicians and case managers. The combined knowledge of what it’s like to receive recovery services with the knowledge and training required to provide expert recovery support places peer recovery specialists in a unique position to bridge gaps in care that form when individual needs (such as medical treatment, therapy, counseling, personal care, and healthy social interaction) are portioned out to multiple professionals, across disciplines.
“Certified peer supports are trained professionals,” Brown says. “We’re here to help in a different way than counselors and doctors and case managers, but we’re here to help support that team, too.”
In 2021, Brown joined ECHO Idaho’s specialist panel for the Counseling Techniques for Substance Use Disorders series, a free, virtual education platform designed especially for Idaho’s healthcare teams working with patients with substance use disorders.
Tackling Substance Use Disorders as a Team
The Counseling Techniques for Substance Use Disorders series provides a forum for healthcare professionals to connect with other specialists across Idaho to learn best practices in a way that is supportive, collaborative and interdisciplinary. Brown serves as an expert panelist alongside a licensed clinical professional counselor, a case management team coordinator and a psychiatry and addiction medicine fellow.
“For people starting out in their recovery, peer supports are an invaluable resource,” says Sara Bennett, LCPC, CADC, executive director of Riverside Recovery in Lewiston and panelist for the ECHO series. “When you can tell a person in recovery that you know what it is like because you've been there, that builds trust, which builds a relationship, which builds a community. That community includes healthcare team members like myself; Lindsay’s role is critical because of how quickly she can build trust and advocate for a person in recovery."
At ECHO Idaho, Brown leads presentations for statewide audiences on topics like “Person-Centered Language Strategies” and “The Role of Peer Recovery Support Specialists in Recovery.”
“The biggest obstacle that I have seen doing this work is collaboration between all the different caretakers in recovery,” Brown says. “But I think ECHO is a unique platform for healthcare team members to learn from each other. It’s literally peer support.”
Catch Brown at ECHO Idaho’s Counseling Techniques for Substance Use Disorders series, first and third Thursdays, 11 a.m. to noon Pacific time; noon to 1 p.m. Mountain time.
Written by Sam Steffen and Lindsay Lodis, ECHO Idaho.
Photos courtesy of Lindsay Brown.
Published February 2022.
At the time of this article's publication, Lindsay Brown held the position of certified peer support specialist and lead recovery coach at the Center for Behavioral Health in Boise. She has since left that organization.