One question that we often get from individuals who are interested in our training programs for peer support specialists is whether or not it’s an appropriate career path for those who have experienced their own trauma in the past. It’s a valid question, as making sure to avoid triggers for PTSD and other traumas received in the line of duty is very important for those in law enforcement and other fields. However, as police officers and peer support specialists for several decades now, we feel that this career path is not only appropriate but can also be therapeutic for those who have experienced a critical incident or injury in the past.

Recovery Is Only The Beginning

For law enforcement officers, military personnel, emergency medical technicians, and other first responders, critical incidents are a part of the job. That doesn’t necessarily make them any easier when they happen to you or a person about whom you care. Peer support specialists are integral in helping people recover from these incidents and continue their careers.

If you’ve been profoundly impacted by a critical incident in the past and were able to recover thanks to the help of counseling and support from your community, you are in fact the prime candidate for becoming a peer support specialist who can help others. Recovery is only the beginning of your post-trauma journey. Once they’ve found a path forward, many people have a strong desire to return the favor to others in their field.

Reasons Survivors Make The Best Peer Support Specialists

When it comes to helping others open up after, accept support for, and recover from a traumatic incident, one thing peer support specialists can never have too much of is credibility. Here’s why survivors are often the best ones to deliver support when others are at their lowest points:

  • Trust – If you were getting ready to go skydiving for the first time, would you be more comfortable jumping with a trained, certified instructor or your friend who has never completed a tandem jump before in their lives, but has read a lot of books about skydiving? First responders are a close knit community. They are far more likely to trust a peer support specialist who comes from their same field rather than a professional counselor with whom they share no common ground.
  • Experience – In addition to sharing a professional background, survivors who become peer support specialists can offer experience that other professional counselors cannot. You know what it’s like to work 12 hour shifts, deal with unstable criminals, and be subject to very dangerous conditions on a daily basis. You know first hand the toll it takes on one’s body and mind in a way that other counselors do not.
  • Authenticity – Because of the trust and experience that can be provided by a peer support specialist, their insights and advice are more likely to be accepted by someone in the first responder field. It isn’t just a “shrink” telling them to get in touch with their feelings, it’s a comrade showing them the way through the darkest tunnel of their lives.

“Peer Support is the greatest instiller of hope we can provide,” victim advocate Erin Goodison told SAFE of Austin. “For our clients, seeing survivors who have successfully rebuilt their lives — and now dedicate their time to helping others — is both inspiration and motivation through difficult times.”

Help Others By Becoming A Peer Support Specialist

We hope this post has helped you to see how being a survivor of critical incident puts you in the unique position of becoming a successful peer support specialist. Initially, you may have seen the trauma that happened to you as a negative thing, but through your own recovery, we hope you’ve grown to see that this experience gives you insight into the human psyche that few can ever enjoy.

As a survivor, you are perfectly poised to hold open the door for others who seek recovery, and the best way to do that is through our peer support specialist training and development courses. Check out our course offerings, which are specially customized for those who want to work in the military, law enforcement, or first responder fields. Then, contact Peer Support Central today to learn how we can help launch your career as a peer support specialist.