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Peer Support Specialist: Nicole

This week we are sharing the profiles of two of our amazing Peer Support Specialists and the awesome work they do here at CMHA York Region and South Simcoe.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the CMHA College of Health and Well-Being (based on the Recovery College* model), that is aimed at enabling people to become experts in their own self-care and to develop skills and confidence to manage their own recovery journey. The courses in the CMHA College of Health and Well-Being are informative and interactive, developed and delivered by peer supporters, like those featured in these profiles, who are experts because of their experiences. We hope you will take the time to learn more about the CMHA College of Health and Well-Being and to view the Spring Course Guide. There is truly something for everyone, no matter where you are in your journey.

What is Peer Support?

According to Peer Support Canada, “Peer support is based on a relationship between people who have a lived experience in common. In the case of Peer Support the experience that individuals or groups have in common is in relation to a mental health challenge or illness, or an addiction or substance use challenge. This common experience might be relative to their own health or that of a loved one.”

Peer Support is grounded in hope, empowerment and recovery, creating an authentic relationship where people can use their lived experience in order to assist others in their recovery.

Peer Support Elements: Hope, Empowerment and Recovery

Headshot of Nicole Parker

Why did you choose to become a Peer Support Specialist?

Although early on I offered peer support in a more informal way, the opportunity I had to work at Waypoint is where I really began to grow and define my career in peer support more formally. In addition, I was able to receive training provincially and federally to be certified as a Peer Support Specialist, providing me with a greater knowledge base to help me better serve my clients. I decided to apply to CMHA as a Peer Support Specialist with the ACTT Team, as I wanted to do more work in my community.

Why are Peer Support Specialists important?

Peer Support Specialists are extremely important because they share life experiences, providing a great benefit to others. We offer a place for people to open up without feeling different and judged, while giving options and choices to our clients, to empower them to be resilient and move forward in life.

What do you love most about being a Peer Support Specialist?

As a Peer Support Specialist, I love listening to people’s life stories, learning their patterns of mental health, as well as offering teaching. I also learn a lot from my clients as well! It is wonderful to be here at CMHA where the thoughts and ideas associated with Peer Support are listened to and well supported.

What are some of the things that you do on a daily basis?

With clients, I often focus on helping them cope through their mental health journey. Some examples of this include helping them with their voice hearing patterns or providing them with strategies for controlling their emotional outbursts. Sharing, listening and understanding what a client is going through at any given time, is essential to this role. We want to give our clients options and choices to assist them with their recovery and help them feel a sense of empowerment to move forward in their journey of life.

What is something about Peer Support Specialists that others might not know?

There are many different degrees of Peer Support. Some Peer Support Specialists, like those at CMHA are more formal, while offering support at a social club would be a more informal setting.


*Recovery Colleges are modeled after a traditional college, however they are not considered postsecondary education. They are not governed by the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act, 2002 OR The Private Career Colleges Act, 2005. The Recovery College model was developed in England and has been widely replicated internationally.

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