Encouraging and supporting people to attend Peer Support for the first time

Posted 12.12.2018

The Direct Engagement Support Team at Drink Wise, Age Well talk about our peer support groups all the time. People hear about them from the first time they make contact with the service.

Groups aren’t my thing.  I will never go to a meeting so you can stop asking me” – Willie

If we are visiting someone at their home for the first time we always leave them details of the 7 groups that we run at various locations throughout the city, always making sure to let people know where the nearest group to them is and how to get there.

If we are working with someone on a 1:1 basis over a period of weeks or months we always make sure to remind them of the meetings and encourage them to give them a try.

Stop going on about they meetings I’m no coming” – Willie

If someone’s 1:1 support is coming to an end we will remind people that the MAP meetings are a great way to stay connected to the service. We make sure to let them know about the great feedback we get from the people who attend the groups and how helpful they find it.

Often anxiety can hold people back from attending for the first time. We try and address this by describing what the meetings are like, the structure, the facilitation etc. In a lot of cases this is enough and people pluck up the courage to walk through the door.

In some cases though people need a bit more support.

“I only went because cause you met me at the Subway and came in and sat with me for the first one…it took the fear away…then I liked it and felt comfortable to go myself the next time” – Willie

We often find that if people come and give the meetings a try they tend to come back.

“I love the MAP groups, I go every week, they have really helped me through some dark times….I’m 16 months sober and the group work has helped so much, I’m glad you kept telling me about them” – Willie


Asking the experts

I recently invited the people who attend our MAP groups into our office for a discussion about MAP and Volunteering with the DES team, 21 people came in.

I asked them about their first time at one of our peer support groups.  The vast majority of people spoke about how nervous they were and of high levels of anxiety.  Some people spoke about how they had thought about going for a while but took a while to build up to it.

I asked what would’ve made it easier?  A large number of people said it would have been easier if someone had come along with them.


People help People

I asked the group if they would like to become involved in our MAP meetings and in helping make peoples first visit easier. The group advised that having more Peer Facilitators would help and that having someone to support people to their first visit would help. 15 people signed up to be volunteers.


Map Facilitation

We now have 4 people from this group co-facilitating our map meetings – the feedback has been fantastic from the attendees. We have also recently employed two people who volunteered with us as Peer Facilitators. This allows us for the most part, to have a Peer Facilitator at every Mutual Aid Partnership meeting we run.


Buddy Service

We now have 6 people who have signed up wanting to be part of a buddy service that will support people along to their first MAP meeting.  DES Staff have been doing a trial run of the buddy service. The following quotes are from two ladies who use our service.  Anj one of our Project Workers supported both ladies along to their first MAP meeting.

“I would never have attended alone due to my anxiety, meeting new people, not being able to find the building…Travelling by myself was impossible but being supported along to the group and meeting other people there has changed my life” – Alison

“Support along to the meeting made the decision to attend much easier and not as nerve wracking, to be honest I would not have gone without support and now I’m so glad I did and now I’ve arranged to give someone a lift to the next meeting. Go me!” – Shirley

Hopefully this approach will encourage people to try our Peer Support groups by reducing the stress and anxiety of coming along to a group for the first time.