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A "Recovery Story" Versus an "Illness Story" in Peer Support

We've all heard and likely experienced the impact of storytelling in recovery. Someone else speaking our truth or experience, especially if it is something we are ashamed of or have kept a secret, can be unbelievably healing.

With shared lived experience at the core of peer support, storytelling is crucial. But knowing when and how to share your story is an important piece of supporting others and building a connection.

Storytelling in a peer support specialist role is not about sharing "war stories." Talking only about the worst things that have happened to you or identifying with everything a person says can feel invalidating and sometimes even seem like a competition for who had it worse.

Instead of focusing only on diagnoses or negative experiences, it's important to also focus on your successes, the barriers you have overcome, and what has helped you. The goal of peer support it not to reinforce negative messages a person has already heard or challenges a person has experienced but to validate them, provide hope, and support them in moving towards what they want.

The story of hope and strength, added to the shared difficulties, has the power to change lives.


Storytelling is one of the many important skills in peer support included in the National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) certification. To learn more about the first national advanced peer specialist certification go to