July 21, 2020

Joseph's Home peer recovery specialist provides a look into the support residents and alumni receive

Peer Recovery Specialist Jeffrey Saunders shares lived experiences to assist residents and alumni

Peer Recovery Specialist Jeffrey Saunders is the newest member of the Joseph’s Home family. Jeffrey was hired in April, in the mist of the COVID-19 pandemic but has already brought a sense of support for the residents and alumni despite the challenges of the pandemic. In his role, Jeffrey serves as someone who shares some lived experience with residents and alumni, and who has undergone training to support those who struggle with substance use, mental health, or psychological trauma. Jeffrey is actively involved with assisting residents through their recovery by offering advice, showing support, connecting to community resources, and much more. His personal philosophy is to always approach his role with honesty about his experiences.

Jeffrey recently shared his thoughts about the Peer Recovery Specialist field and about how he is enjoying his time at Joseph’s Home thus far.

Q: What is most rewarding about being a Peer Recovery Specialist?

A: Having the opportunity to work with other peer recovery specialists, and being able to meet the residents where they are in their recovery process.

Q: What is most challenging about being a Peer Recovery Specialist?

A: The most challenging part, in my opinion, is the stigma behind my work because peer recovery is still a new thing here. Often times, case workers and case managers are the ones who do not always see the importance of our work. Our role as peer recovery specialists is not always understood. Before 2015 this was not a career, and recently in 2017 the field began to expand. We are now able to be in integrated settings such as hospitals, emergency rooms, and court systems.

Q: What led you to the decision to become a Peer Recovery Specialist?

A: I tried working in treatment facilities for years, but I was in a role more like our Resident Support Associate at Joseph’s Home. During this time, I was in charge of making meals at the facilities, getting to know the people who stayed there, and offering them advice. Then I realized around that peer recovery became an actual job and it was much like what I did before just under a different title. I knew that I would be great at it, because I had the experience and I could relate to the residents and alumni. I had been in the same place some of them are – an addict and suffering from mental health issues. I just knew I could make a difference in someone’s life.

Q: How did you hear about Joseph’s Home?

A: During my 12-step recovery program, I met a man that was a resident at Joseph’s Home. He would tell me great things about the organization, and said it was a great place to be. Then after I became certified and I did a job search, I saw that Joseph’s Home was hiring. I remembered the man I met, and I knew I had to apply to see what would happen. Now I’m here, and I do not plan on leaving.

Q: What have you learned from the staff or the residents so far from working at Joseph’s Home?

A: From the staff, I have learned the value of working as a team. The only way we can get things done around here is if we work and problem solve together. Then, from the residents I learned that even if everyone has similar stories, everyone still requires individualized care. None of our residents can receive the same exact type of care, they all have different needs.

Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to become a Peer Recovery Specialist?

A: To take what you are doing seriously, and go one day at a time. Also, learn to accept the truth in being able to meet someone where they are in their recovery.

Q:  How do you practice self-care?

A: Self-care is super important when it comes to my line of work, so I always remind myself to take time to relax. The key for me is not to take work home with me. Monday through Friday, 9 AM – 5 PM is my Joseph’s Home time. Any other time is “Jeffrey’s time” – that is when I enjoy time with my lovely wife, reading a book or the newspaper.

Joseph's Home is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

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