Peer Support Network at ASC - Los Angeles
By Ken Bagnis, M.A.

In defining effective treatment options, we have observed that a significant amount of growth and change relies upon an awareness of oneself in the context of other people. At the Anne Sippi Clinics we continue to develop program activities, which serve as a catalyst to develop interpersonal dynamics and roles within the facility as well as the community.

The "People Helpers" program at the Anne Sippi Clinic may best be described as the sharing of common humanity and kindness. A prominently displayed bulletin board is covered with a mosaic of brightly colored index cards. On closer inspection you will find hand written advertisements. Our clients' creative ads overlap each other with offers of help, guidance, and friendship. "Need some help getting your state I.D. card or bus pass? I can help you with this process. See "Cal" in room 12." "Want to get in, shape? I love to go on walks and exercise. See "Jim" in room #2." " I love to read good books- let's start a book club. See "Jen" in room #4." Peer support is discovered, and clients begin to explore new ways of problem solving.

The clients' willingness to share their strengths with their peers has helped greatly in the development of meaningful relationships and can be interpreted as an important step in building self-esteem and promoting competencies. This willingness to share and be supported can be an essential step in the development of independence, which is a primary goal of many of our treatment options. Clients can learn to reach beyond the helpful hand of a mental health professional, and find support in a friend, the community, and perhaps most meaningful, in themselves.