Peer Support after Brain Injury

Brain Injury Blog

Peer Support 

by Janelle Breese Biagioni

Peer Support is essentially individuals supporting other individuals with similar or shared experiences. This support is offered one-to-one or in a group setting. The benefits of peer support are numerous, including that the supporter has credibility and is trusted because they have been through the experience.

It’s important for the person who needs the support to know that those listening to him or her really get what they are feeling. As an example, while I have worked with survivors of brain injury for years, I can only empathize with their experience and learn from them. I have not lived their experience. On the other hand, as a family member, I have lived the experience of supporting a loved one who is living with the outcome of a brain injury and I truly get what that emotional roller coaster feels like.

Individuals sharing their experiences can offer one another ideas and suggestions for coping with a situation or finding solutions to a problem. Peer supporters also inspire one another ~ when people see that another has survived a situation and moved forward in life, it gives them hope and courage to do what they need to do to get better or make changes.

Peer support groups bring together friends and strangers in a safe, nurturing environment to share stories and offer support. Along with building trust and credibility, groups do need to stress the importance of confidentiality and be clear when confidentiality would be broken. An acceptable explanation is, “You can share with your family and friends about what you said or what you felt while in the group. You cannot share what others have said or done. Confidentiality will be broken if a person threatens to harm themselves or others.”

The peer mentor or facilitator should receive training to lead the group. The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury documented in their Identification of Best Practices for Peer Support: White Paper (January 2011) the key components for peer support as:

  • Adequate training must be provided to peer supporters so they are able to:
    • Identify and be aware of signs of stress
    • Know when to reach  out to others for assistance
    • Facilitate referrals to additional resources
  • A program must be able to follow through with individuals to monitor improvement
  • Individuals must feel safe to make use of the program
  • Strong confidentiality agreements 

On a final note, in my opinion, to be an effective peer supporter, the person has to have done their own work so they can truly be present to others. Peer support is a wonderful way to give back and to help others on the journey ~ consider becoming a peer supporter today!

Source: (page 16) Retrieved: October 5, 2011

October 24, 2011


One response to “Peer Support after Brain Injury”

  1. My name is Craig J. Phillips and I am a traumatic brain injury and survivor. My injury occurred as a result of a motor vehicle accident in 1967 when I was 10 years old. I sustained an open skull fracture, right frontal lobe damage, a several brain bruise with brain stem involvement in the car accident. In 1967 neurological rehabilitation was not available. As a result, I was subsequently on my own. Once my external wounds healed there was never any further discussion as to the reality that I was now among other traumatic brain injury survivors.

    Although I experienced a significant brain injury I was able to re-teach myself how to walk, talk, read, write and speak in complete sentences – by hard work, determination, persistence, tenacity and most of all the grace of God. Although I was not expected to succeed beyond high school academically, I graduated on time with my high school class. I then went on to obtain both my undergraduate degree – in 10 years and my graduate degree in 4 1/2 years. I later discovered that the difficulties that I experienced were due to the impact of my traumatic brain injury.
    Although I was able to obtain my undergraduate and graduate degrees I was unable to maintain gainful employment in either non-professional and professional jobs.

    After becoming a client of vocational rehabilitation I was deemed to be unemployable. Shortly after completing the DVR process I was determined to be disabled by the Social Security Administration and began receiving monthly SSDI assistance in 1999. Although I had diligently applied myself diligently academically and vocationally I found myself ineffective and discounted.

    Although I felt like some one all dressed up with no where to go being ineffective and discounted, I still sought to use what I had in ways that would work for me. I wrote a book and an autobiography, but could not get either of them published. Nevertheless, I continued to seek ways to use my experience, strength and hope to effectively encourage, empower, motivate and instill hope. At the encouragement of a friend I created Second Chance to Live on February 6, 2007. To date I have written 987 articles and created 98 You Tube presentations.

    I would invite you to read my articles by visiting my Site Map for My Articles, by clicking on the following link my friend, I would also invite you to visit my Site Map for my You Tube Video Presentations by clicking on the following link, I believe you will be able to identify with me. As you read my articles and watch my video presentations and questions come to mind, please send those questions to me. All questions are good questions.

    If I can be of service to you, your group and the individuals whom you seek to empower, please let me know.

    I look forward to hearing from you my friend.

    Sharing Hope in the Face of Adversity

    Craig J. Phillips MRC, BA
    Second Chance to Live

    Sharing Hope in the Face of Adversity

    Follow me on: Twitter:
    Facebook: Second Chance to Live Group
    You Tube Presentations:

    Our circumstances are not meant to keep us down, but to build us up.

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