Field Report: Intentional Peer Support turns COVID crisis into opportunity

In March 2020, when COVID caused lockdowns in the US and all over the world, Intentional Peer Support shut down for a month.

Over that period, we were challenged to put our materials online, and despite our initial misgivings, found the resources to do so and to run a couple of pilots. We were all pleasantly surprised at how well it went, and found that in our first pay-per-seat training we were able to attract participants from Russia, India, UK, Australia and rural US- parts of the world from which IPS was hitherto inaccessible.

Since the first pilot online training in April/May 2020 IPS Central has run 27 Core Trainings, and there have been a couple of dozen run in organizations around the world. Resources have been created to cater for the unique needs of online training, and orientation sessions are run for trainers who wish to train online.

Most of these have been trainings contracted by organizations, and there have also been seven pay-per-seat and pay-what-you-can-afford trainings- one in New Zealand, two in Australia three in the US, and two for Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. There has been increasing inquiry and demand from other parts of the world and other demographics (such as military veterans and prisons) and one of the challenges we face is ensuring that our materials and trainers are culturally equipped to cater for the multitude of cultural needs represented.

As the success of online Core trainings has grown, so has the demand for an online Train the Trainer course, and this is what the COVID-relief grant has contributed to. The resources are almost complete- a penultimate draft is being edited, and two Train-the Trainer trainings have been scheduled and are now full. The first one is for the State of Maine, and the second one has been a pay-per-seat training, with some scholarships and financial support available for participants who can’t afford the full cost per seat. IPS runs at cost, so has been grateful for this COVID-relief grant, and two other small state-funded grants to enable the creation of supplemental materials.

The initial pay-what-you-can-afford Train the Trainer will be run later in September as a pilot, then the training in Maine will be held to adjust changes made. There are also two future TTT trainings yet to be scheduled for early 2022.

We are grateful for the COVID-relief grant which has contributed to making this possible, and we are hopeful that these herald the first of many, making IPS more accessible, and sustainable, and allowing it to evolve.



About IPS

‘Intentional Peer Support, known as IPS, is a relational framework developed in the 1990s by Shery Mead and others who were active in the mental health consumer/survivor/x-patient movement. It has evolved over the years while engaging many people in the work of transformative, mutually responsible relationships. This framework is generally evoked when someone may be experiencing intense emotions or psychological distress, yet it proves useful in many situations and relationships.

IPS is used across the world in community, peer support, and human services settings, and is a tool for community development with broad appeal to people from all walks of life.’1

Why IPS? Peers come together around shared experiences and often a desire to change lives. But without a new framework to build upon, people frequently re-enact “help” based on what was done to them. IPS offers a foundation for doing something different. We come from a history of grassroots alternatives that focus on building relationships that are mutual, explorative, and conscious of power. Learn more

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