It’s nice to have this laid out clearly – a look at what are the major differences in “power” across professional and peer support contexts from Bill White. I often find myself trying to summarize these points to people who are looking for help and I hope I am able to convey that peer support can offer considerably more power and freedom than that found in the professional service relationship. Bill’s list shows several ways that peer support groups allow us to undertake a fairly open exploration of who they are and what they can offer – and remember they also advise us to “take what we want and leave the rest” : )
Twelve-Step members control the pace of emotional intimacy through their choice of meeting styles, meeting frequency, degree of socializing outside of meetings, and choice to have or not have a sponsorship relationship and with whom. In the professional context, the service professional prescribes the frequency and intensity of contact.
- Twelve-Step programs are accessible around the clock, including evenings, weekends, and holidays—something unheard of in the professional context.
- Twelve-Step programs are geographically accessible even when traveling the world; historically, the professional service relationship is rooted to a single location.
- There are no fees attached to 12-Step participation—only small volunteer contributions to support maintenance of the group. In contrast, professional recovery support can involve tens of thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Twelve-Step programs maintain no record of one’s support activities; professionals maintain extensive records that are not in control of the “patient.”
- Peer relationships within 12-Step programs rest on a foundation of reciprocity of support and equality of power; professional relationships are hierarchical with greater power placed in the role of the professional.
- Twelve-Step relationships are potentially enduring; professional relationships are almost universally time-limited and ever-briefer within the current service funding environment.
- Where 12-Step programs limit invasiveness and levels of personal disclosure (via discouragement of crosstalk and discouragement of taking other people’s inventories), professional treatment often involves pressure for a heightened degree of personal disclosure.