Peer support

What is peer support?

Peer support is a supportive relationship between people who have lived experience in common. Thanks to their own experiences, peer support specialists at The Royal are uniquely positioned to offer support and guidance to clients and families. Guided by the core values of peer support, peer support specialists are trained to work with individuals or family members of individuals accessing care at The Royal. Individual peer support specialists bring a wealth of knowledge from their own lived experience of recovery from mental health challenges. Similarly, family peer support specialists recognize the struggle that the members in a person’s circle of support experience in relation to the mental health challenges of a loved one.

Peer support specialists meet with peers as equals, validating experiences, providing support for their concerns and inspiring a hopeful future for those living with mental health challenges and their families. While peer support specialists are not clinicians, they offer confidential, personalized support tailored to the needs and circumstances of clients and their familes. 

Currently, peer support at The Royal for individuals and their families is limited to the Integrated Forensic Program. However, peer support through partner organizations is also available for other programs at The Royal, as outlined below.

What are the core values of peer support?

The core values of peer support include:

  1. Hope and recovery
  2. Self-determination
  3. Empathetic and equal relationships
  4. Dignity, respect, and social inclusion
  5. Integrity, authenticity, and trust
  6. Health and wellness
  7. Lifelong learning and personal growth

Frequently asked questions about peer support

Q: Are peer support specialists clinicians?

A: Peer support specialists are not clinicians. Peer support specialists work in conjunction with allied health professionals to add to the quality of care received at The Royal. 

Q: What can I expect from a one-on-one peer support session?

A: During a one-on-one peer support session, the focus will be on you, the peer (a.k.a. client or family member), and what’s important to you. Peer support specialists do not have an agenda, nor are they there to fix or to solve. Rather, they are there to support you in your journey towards wellness, as defined by you. Peers define what they need from peer support, and what their recovery looks like to them. 

Q: Is peer support confidential? 

A: Peer support is provided confidentially to both clients and their family members in separate peer support relationships. Notes taken by peer support specialists during peer support sessions are not clinical. In the case of individual peer support, notes are taken collaboratively with the client and not shared with the care team, with other staff, or physicians. 

There is no collaborative note taking between a family peer supporter and a family member, however, information is gathered to demonstrate the use of the program. We keep track of the number of people using the service and do not identify those seeking peer support. In addition, on a periodic basis, family peer supporters may ask family members for feedback on the service they receive, while maintaining confidentiality.

Q:  What is the added value of family peer support?

A:  Family members strive to recover from the emotional turmoil, grief and/or fatigue that may result from supporting someone with mental health challenges. The family member’s path to their own wellness is likely to be enhanced by a better understanding of their loved one’s illness and through the development of coping skills. Greater confidence, acceptance of the situation, and having hope for their loved one will help them to be more effective caregivers and supporters, while also helping them to sustain their own wellbeing.

Q: If I access family peer support services, will my loved one know? Will it affect their care?

A: All peer support sessions are confidential. A client will not be informed of their family’s participation in peer support, nor will their care team. Peer support specialists do not discuss their clients’ involvement with peer support with each other or other allied professions. Likewise, family members will not be informed of any individual peer support interactions of their loved ones.

Q: Can peer support be prescribed or ordered?

A: It is against the values and philosophies of peer support for services to be prescribed or for individuals to be ordered to participate in peer support. Peer support values support equal relationships and voluntary participation in peer support. 

Q: How do I access individual peer support services?

A: If you wish to access individual peer support services for the Integrated Forensic Program while receiving care at The Royal, speak to a member of your care team, such as a nurse, social worker, or physician. You do not need a physician’s referral to access peer support, just a request sent in writing to a peer support specialist.  

For those in programs other than the Integrated Forensic Program, please contact your care team to be connected with one of our community partners. 

Q: How do I access family peer support services?

A:  Family peer support is available for those supporting loved ones who are part of the Integrated Forensic Program at The Royal. Contact Christine at 613-805-5013 or by email at familypeersupport1-forensic@theroyal.caInformation can be found here.

Please see the information under community partners, below, for other individual and family peer support for programs..

Community partners

Peer support services at The Royal are made possible not only by peer support specialists employed by The Royal, but also by partners in the community. Members of Pleo, Psychiatric Survivors of Ottawa, and the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition work closely with The Royal to provide peer support services to clients and their family members.

Additional information

For additional information about peer support at The Royal, send an email to or stop by the Client and Family Resource Hub to speak to a concierge. 

A collection of hands over top one another

The Client and Family Resource Hub

Values of Peer Support with Michèle
Peer Support at The Royal - Michèle & Angus
Peer Support at The Royal - Michèle, Ann-Marie & Christine
Peer Support at The Royal - Michèle and Kevin