This past Wednesday I attended my first of ten NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) Peer-to-Peer sessions. Since I am brain dead after excessively tweeting (yes, I’ve been hypomanic), here is my tweet about it from Wednesday night: “Just got home from 1st NAMI Peer to Peer class. Weird after over 30 years of therapy, but hey 1st time for everything. Always learning.”

I will blog about what it is like to participate in NAMI’s highly structured, scripted program and how it differs from my experiences in individual and group psychotherapy. I’m a seasoned consumer of individual psychotherapy, but believe (and hope) that I will learn some hands-on skills from NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer program. Who knows, once I have finished the sessions, perhaps I will do some volunteer work with NAMI?

For those in the USA, here is the text from NAMI’s website:

NAMI Peer-to-Peer is a recovery-focused educational program for adults who wish to establish and maintain wellness in response to mental health challenges. The course provides critical information and strategies related to living with mental illness.

Outreach Video for NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer Recovery Education Course.

What You Should Expect

  • Ten two-hour sessions, free of charge.
  • Designed for individuals (18 and over) living with mental illness.
  • Taught by a trained team of individuals living in recovery from mental illness.
  • Incorporates presentations, discussion and exercises.

Why You Should Attend

A toolkit of information

  • Up-to-date research on brain biology.
  • Mental illness symptoms and their relationship to personal experiences.
  • Personalized relapse prevention plan.
  • Tools to prepare for interactions with health care providers.
  • Skills for making decisions and reducing stress.

Wisdom from shared experiences

This peer-led course provides a confidential place to learn from shared experiences in an environment of sincere, uncritical acceptance. No specific medication or medical therapy is endorsed or recommended. Our Core Philosophy informs the course’s approach.

Participation in the course gives you an opportunity to gain tangible resources – personalized plans, strategies for potential events in the future and information – as well as a deeper understanding of your personal recovery process.

Core Philosophy

  • We have more in common than not.
  • We are all experts on our own experience.
  • We respect individual experiences and individual choices.
  • We are free to choose our own path.
  • There is no one true way to do or be anything.

What Others Say About NAMI Peer-to-Peer

“Peer-to-Peer has allowed me to take the focus off my illness and learn to balance it with the rest of my life. By engaging in recovery I am able to be more relaxed and productive both at work and home.”

“It made me feel I was not alone in coping with mental illness; it gave me hope that I could recover and that my life would not always be filled with chaos; it gave me positive role models to inspire me to strive for recuperation and success in life.”

De Persona a Persona de NAMI

De Persona a Persona de NAMI is available in a limited number of states. Please contact your NAMI State Organization to learn if De Persona a Persona de NAMI is available near you.

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44 responses to “NAMI Peer-to-Peer”

  1. Bummer. It’s actually not therapy. It’s education. Quite different, actually. But helpful.

  2. Well, this sounds neat…I shall now click the link to find their are no resources available in my area….gosh, I must be down today, I am usually good at avoiding negative talk, but this sounds too good to be true. Free therapy?

  3. It’s one of those situations where I always ‘took what I could use and left the rest.’ I served on the Arkansas State Board for 2 years and excused myself due to the structure and everyone being in a place of comfort they weren’t willing to even consider anything new. However, it did open many doors for me and as I said, I learned a lot.

  4. It’s one of those situations where I always ‘took what I could use and left the rest.’ I served on the Arkansas State Board for 2 years and excused myself due to the structure and everyone being in a place of comfort they weren’t willing to even consider anything new. However, it did open many doors for me and as I said, I learned a lot.

  5. Thank you, Sheri. I actually am intrigued by the fact that they are so highly structured, as I was trained quite differently as a psychotherapist. Usually I chafe at structure, but as this is psychoeducational, I can frame it as a course syllabus.

  6. Kitt – I so hope the NAMI Peer to Peer program goes well for you. I agree, many of their programs are highly structured but I always felt I had some small morsel as a take away. I wish you a wonderful learning experience. Sheri

  7. Can’t wait to hear more about your experiences, Kitt. It’s wonderful that you’re participating.


  8. Best of luck with your move to Ohio. Hope that they have an active NAMI chapter.

  9. This is great. This is exactly what I want to do. I was trying to get involved down in South Florida but I put it on the back burner as I had to plan a move to Northeast Ohio. Thanks for this. It’s a reminder for me to look into it in my town. 🙂

  10. No, I am not. When I was in my 20’s I was licensed as a psychotherapist. I’m 50 now and am licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in California, but have not practiced psychotherapy since I had a breakdown at 30.

  11. Are you a certified peer specialist? I really would like to do that and get a job in that field

  12. Awesome! Please blog about it when the time comes.

  13. Hey Kitt, that video is so good. Hits the nail on the head about what I have thought for a long time. At some point in the future I hope to do a new course that is being developed here called “CHC42912 Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work” that teaches peers to be educators.

  14. […] post from Kitt O’Malley over at is worth a reblog. It talks of the value of peer-to-peer based education and training in the […]

  15. Thanks for reblogging, Glenn. I hope the information is useful for those Down Under.

  16. Reblogged this on glenn2point0 and commented:
    The value of peer-to-peer based education and training in the recovery process.

  17. Awesome! I look forward to learning about the success of Iowa’s new innovative system. Thanks so much for your efforts on behalf of mental health consumers.

  18. Yes. It’s brand-new in Iowa, part of a whole mental health care delivery system retool. I work in a team with Care Coordinators (mostly social workers), other Peers and a nurse. Our goal is to coordinate primary and mental health care, get people the services they need before emergencies happen. We’ll see.

  19. Perhaps they have something similar. Have you checked out the International Bipolar Foundation at

  20. Yes, they do a lot of great work.

  21. Do you get paid as a peer?

  22. You are welcome!

  23. I’m just going to nickname myself Dyane “glenn3point8” Harwood in my comment sign-offs since I want to write comments that have the depth and…get ready for this awesome vocabulary word….perspicacity as yours!


  24. What a lovely opportunity. Wish we had something like that in our country. I think you’re so brave!

  25. I was just researching this organization to mention in “Wall Grimm” because of the character Bogart. It’s a great organization.

  26. I can’t wait to hear more about this. Interesting to compare volunteering as a Peer as opposed to being paid as a Peer. I have mixed feelings.

  27. Thanks, Kitt, for the encouragement. Also you deserve another thank you from me. You reminded me to contact NAMI on Monday even though you didn’t realize you were doing so.

  28. Yes, that would be frustrating. Apparently your local chapter is not doing enough outreach to the community. Who knows, maybe you can help change that? Sounds like there’s an obvious overlap in the work you do with the homeless and outreach to under-served mentally ill.

  29. cheers, thanks for the wonderful compliment Dy.

  30. The thing is Kit, I live in the in a high densely area. I live in a major city and that is why its so frustrating.

  31. I am so sorry that there was a lack of interest in your area. I imagine that the more densely populated urban and suburban chapters are more active. If you do volunteer for them, I look forward to hearing more about it.

  32. Glenn, your comments here and elsewhere always rock! You are so eloquent! If I see you already have commented I can just write “ditto Glenn” and mean it! 😉

  33. I’ll be living through you vicariously, hee hee hee! You could be a speaker and utilize your oratory skills!

  34. I like what NAMI does but not sure if I am a fan at the current moment. I signed up for the peer to peer twice and both times it has been cancelled due to the lack of interest. I’m still waiting to hear back about the “In Our Own Voice” program as well as other volunteer opportunities. I’ve sent in the application to become a volunteer a month ago tomorrow (7/26/2014). Anyway, I am thrilled that you are getting something out of the Peer to Peer program.

  35. great. Thanks Kitt.

  36. Yes. This 10-week program seems quite unique. I’m looking forward to it. Most of my experience has been in individual therapy, with some group therapy. NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer model is quite different. You know what, I’m going to revise this post to include a link to their webpage about their Peer-to-Peer program.

  37. Thank you so much for letting me know how helpful is was for you. Awesome becoming certified as a Connection Group Facilitator! Well done. Thank you for helping others as a peer. What a great model of care and what a great role model you are!

  38. I’ll keep everyone apprised as to how it goes. It will be so different than what I’ve done before that I’m sure I’ll learn some new skills. Maybe I’ll give a summary of what we learn each week.

  39. I am curious to hear your thoughts on the peer-to-peer aspect. I still think that peer-to-peer offers something, the lived experience, that is missing from those who have merely “learned”. Peers tend not to project, keeping it very real. Volunteering in the future seems like a great goal.

  40. I love NAMI! I has helped me so much in my acceptance of my mental illness. I have been involved in their Connection support groups since 2011, and just last month in June I got certified as a Connection Group Facilitator for them. I went through the Peer to Peer class once, but I really want to do it again, because it has been a while. I hope you enjoy it!

  41. I am so proud of you for participating in this course. At one point I was interested in doing Peer-to-Peer program. We have an excellent NAMI chapter in our county and the material sounded great. But the commitment daunted me as I had two young children, my meds weren’t yet dialed in, and I was overwhelmed as it was.

    I’ll be following your journey closely, that’s for sure! I know that you will be a wonderful NAMI volunteer if you choose to do so.

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