Six Things You Didn’t Know About Peer Support 

Six Things You Didn’t Know About Peer Support 

By April Wilson Smith, MPH  

Maybe you have heard of Peer Support, maybe it’s new to you.  From the name, you’ve probably guessed that it means support from people who are equal, or in some way similar.  Your peers.   


So, what is Peer Support, and why might you want to take advantage of Peer Support in your Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) treatment? 


  1. Peer Support is a supportive, equal relationship.  Your Peer Guide is someone with lived experience of Alcohol Use Disorder.  That means they have been through what you are going through and they bring that experience to help you and change your relationship with alcohol.  Your Peer Guide is not a clinician who writes prescriptions or evaluates your health.  Their primary function is to listen and support you to figure out what your goals are, and help you make and execute a plan to achieve those goals. They also just keep you company along the way.  We have a lot of fun together too!  

  1. Peer Support is confidential.  Your Peer Guide, just like all North-Star Care employees, is bound by policy and law to protect your health information.  Your Peer Guide is not going to talk to your family, friends, or others about what you share.  Your Peer Guide has a personal stake in your privacy. Many of us felt our privacy was violated during treatment, so we are especially attuned to protecting yours.  That means you have a safe place to go with the thoughts and emotions that arise during AUD treatment. 

  1. Peer Support is non-judgmental.  Peers do not judge your past, your actions, or your goals.  They support you in what you want to accomplish and listen to what you decide to share. 

  1. Peer Guides are NOT sponsors.  You do not need to report to your Peer Guide, tell them about your past, or share anything you do not wish to share.  Some people like to talk in depth about their alcohol use with their Peer Guides – it feels good to talk to someone who understands and does not criticize.  Others prefer to focus on the present and the future, and not rehash the past.  Your Peer Guide will never ask you to do a “moral inventory” or any kind of Step.  Alcohol Use Disorder is not caused by character defects, and North-Star Care’s treatment program is based on science, not spirituality.  We talk about what you want to talk about.  No pushing, no prying, no prodding – ever.  

  1. If you don’t feel like your Peer Guide is the best fit, you can change.  No hard feelings, no problem.  Unlike in traditional rehab where you get a counselor and you’re stuck with them, if you want to switch it up and see if you can find a better relationship, that’s fine.  Just let your Peer Guides or another team member know.   

  1. There’s nothing you have to do with your Peer Guide… but there are lots of fun things you can do.  Peer Guides may invite you to play games in Virtual Reality, attend a yoga class or meditation session in VR, exchange pictures of things you like in texts, or just talk.  Peer Guides can also be a great resource when you’re trying to do something new.  If you want to check out local volunteer opportunities and you don’t know where to start, your Peer Guide can jump on Zoom with you and look at the internet together.  If you’re interested in taking a class, you and your peer guide can search for courses together.   

When it comes to changing your relationship with alcohol, your Peer Guide has been there.  We’ve had ups and downs, frustrations with family, friends, and work.  We’ve battled alcohol cravings, loneliness, and boredom, things that often accompany drinking less or not at all.  We are here to help, and unlike others you might meet, we are never going to tell you what to do.   


If you’re a person who likes to go it alone, we understand.  Some of us are the same way and started our own process of change without much support.  Even if you don’t like to “spill your guts” to someone else, you can take advantage of Peer Support.  Whether it’s in-depth discussions or casual chats, it’s nice to know someone is there.  Give Peer Support a try, and we’ll be surprised if you don’t like it!  

April Wilson Smith, MHP

April Wilson Smith, MHP

April Wilson Smith, MPH, is the Director of the Peer Guide Program for North Star Care, an innovative health care company that provides telehealth harm reduction-based treatment for people with alcohol use disorder. She is a longtime member and former director of organizational development for Harm Reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support (HAMS), a 10,000 member worldwide, online group of people who want to change their drinking. She holds a Masters in public health from Thomas Jefferson University and presented her thesis work at the Harm Reduction Coalition’s 2016 national meeting.