Peer Support | Heal For Life

Peer Support

By survivors for survivors

Everyone who works on the programs at Heal for Life have lived through and healed from trauma themselves, so we understand what it takes to heal – and we’re living proof that it’s possible.

Research shows that peer support is effective at collapsing the power imbalance that can be a barrier to trauma healing in therapeutic relationships (Mowbray et al., 1996, p59). 

We select our peer support volunteers carefully based on their capacity for empathy, their ability to listen and hold space for others, and their commitment to their own individual healing. This helps survivors feel safe – which is critical for healing – and hopeful as guests can learn from other survivors who have successfully healed from childhood trauma.

Survivors empowering survivors is called “peer support” and it’s universally recognised as an essential part of trauma recovery.

Extensively trained and supervised by psychologists

Heal For Life programs are supervised by registered psychologists and run by facilitators with tertiary level qualifications (or equivalent) in counselling or psychology.

We have over 30 trained Peer Support Volunteers who have been chosen based on strict selection criteria. Each  has completed an adult healing program, a week-long residential training program, and 45 hours of observational learning in order to provide support to our guests. They also complete an internal 12-month Certificate in Trauma Practice & Theory during their first year of Peer Support Volunteer Training.

Being a Peer Support Volunteer has therapeutic benefits

Studies show Heal For Life Peer Support Volunteers gain confidence and a sense of meaning from their experience by role modelling the healing journey for others.

Heal4Life Adult Centre Barn 04 LR

Our Peer Support Volunteers often go on to new careers in mental health with many achieving further qualifications in counselling and psychology after completing their Heal For Life Certificate in Trauma Theory.

Read the Research

Education program open to the public

While becoming a Peer Support Volunteer is by invitation, our internal education program is also open to anyone who wishes to deepen their knowledge of the theory behind our programs, expand their knowledge of themselves, and further their healing journey. 

Read about our Education Modules

Pathways to Employment

Becoming a Peer Support Volunteer is a pathway to employment for our guests.

Many of our Peer Support Volunteers have transformed their lives from being on a disability pension to establishing rewarding careers in the mental health industry. It is inspirational to see our wonderful team using their invaluable experience as survivors to support others towards a brighter future. Here’s one story of how a guest has transformed their life and careers since their first Healing Program.

Mikaela Grant

B Psychotherapy & Counselling
Peer Support Volunteer

What was life like before Heal For Life?

Before seeking additional support from Heal For Life I felt directionless. At this point in time I was working casually as a disability support worker, this line of work is difficult at the best of times, however as a trauma survivor who hadn’t yet told my story  I felt incompetent in having the ability to support individuals with complex physical and behavioural needs. My relationships always felt distant and unfulfilled, it was this want to be close to others, coupled with fear. It was painful and no matter what anyone around me said or did I could never allow myself to feel loved, seen and secure.

What was your experience of the first Healing Week?

My experience of my healing week was liberating, uncomfortable and unearthing. My entire world completely changed. All the literature I had read on trauma was beginning to make sense and I was beginning to understand who I was. I remember thinking “you must do the thing you think you cannot do”. For a long time I never felt like I could get past all the things that happened to me. For the first time I had my trauma it no longer had me. I realised on my healing week I had never felt safe and began my lifelong journey to implementing resources to feel safe and to this day feeling safe, truly safe can still be an uncomfortable experience.

What did you get out of the Peer Support Volunteer training process?

The PSV training process gave me a more in depth understanding of how trauma affects every facet of a person, it’s not just something that happens and you get over it. It is something that you need to treat with tenderness each and every day. Large aspects of the training process was immensely healing and gave me hope that if I could do this for myself with the loving support of other PSV’s I knew I could support others to do the same.

How has being a Peer Support Volunteer impacted your career?

My experience as a Peer Support Volunteer has provided me with an education that I am discovering a lot of people in mental health fields do not possess. The Peer Support Volunteer process has highlighted the importance of being with yourself and working towards loving yourself more each day so you have the ability to love others and go gently with others. I will be graduating at the end of the year with a Bachelors in Counselling and Psychotherapy. The degree I undertook focused heavily on doing “your own work”. A lot of this process was implementing theoretical frameworks into a practical and pragmatic manner for your client/s. Through out my degree I spent a lot of time understanding and implementing trauma frameworks. As a trauma survivor I was often confronted with my own lingering traumatic material, however I was supported to navigate these experiences and I believe this has supported me to be a better therapist.

I currently work in a full time capacity as an OSHC Lead for children with extremely complex behavioural needs as a part of the demonstration program in Victoria. I am looking to move into private practice in 2020 and am currently working on some exciting projects. As a result of Heal For Life, I now have a sense of meaningful direction and purpose.

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