The Power of Peer Support: Independence Now Staff Share Their Thoughts

Photo of a person's hand being grasped by another person's hands in a supportive manner.

One of the Core Services of Centers for Independent Living is Peer Counseling. Peer Counseling is support from people with shared life experience, in our case, people with disabilities serve as counselors for others with disabilities. Further, Peer Counselors use their own stories to support others in setting goals and creating more independence in their lives.

Here, four Independence Now staff members and peer counselors share their thoughts on the power of peer support.

"Peer counseling is a unique and crucial lifeline for persons with disabilities. For those newly disabled, injured, or just navigating services on their own for the first time, it means everything to be able to talk through and work on your goals, fears, triumphs with someone who understands what moving through the world with your particular disability looks like."

Serena Jaros, Independent Living COVID Coordinator Tweet

"For me, peer counseling is invaluable. I find it really helpful to hear from people who have gone through similar situations as I. At the same time, I feel a sort of catharsis when I share my stories. It feels good when I tell people what I’ve been through but it makes me feel better when others have gone through the same thing. Peer counseling makes me feel less lonely. Another thing I like about peer counseling is the knowledge I gain from other people’s experiences. Many times others give advice on how I could solve my problem. This is very important because they might’ve thought of something that would never occur to me otherwise. Peer counseling is really a wonderful resource."

Danelle Bustos, Alumnus, Maryland Youth Leadership Forum Tweet

“Peer Counseling is the heartbeat of the Independent Living Movement and the framework we use to provide consumers the opportunity to see life through a new lens.”

Rochelle Harrod, Prince George’s County Independent Living Specialist Tweet

Abiola Heyliger, Independent Living Specialist Montgomery County, relayed this recent experience with Peer Counseling:

Last week, I spoke with an Information and Referral caller who was at her wits end because she had quit her job to become a full-time caregiver for her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease/dementia but had realized that the time had come to bring in outside help. The more we talked, the more it became clear how much we had in common, both our moms were nurses, education was very important in the family, we’d even gone to the same University. Both our moms began having memory problems and we both knew we needed help from professionals and to access community resources. She called Independence Now looking for help and resources. Abiola said, “It made me feel REALLY proud to advise the Consumer that one of the most important resources that we provide is PEER COUNSELING because we are also persons with disabilities AND have family members with disabilities too! I shared some of my own story and the Consumer expressed how grateful she was that there was someplace, and someone, out there that wouldn’t judge her—could empathize with her, AND give her good leads on resources, e.g., Alzheimer’s support groups, that could help support HER mentally, as well as her mother.” 

Abiola Heyliger, Independent Living Specialist Montgomery County Tweet

Abiola felt exactly the same way, after that phone call with her.

Independence Now’s Independent Living team provides powerful peer-to-peer support for people with disabilities to become more independent in their lives and communities. Contact us at 240-638-0070 or sminnick@innow.org today to learn more about our services and start on your road to independence, whatever that may look like for you!

The Power of Peer Support: Independence Now Staff Share Their Thoughts
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