Friendship Project (About)

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The Friendship Project (TFP)

Note: The Friendship Project is an independent project by Dan Frey and is not a part of City Voices or Baltic Street AEH, Inc.

PROBLEM: Human beings with mental health and/or substance use challenges are being released from institutional settings without the emotional support needed to make a successful transition to community life. They sometimes find themselves in crisis, utilizing services such as the emergency room or hospitalization. Feelings of despair and anxiety are all too common experiences for people trying to make it back into community life.

PURPOSE: To pair compassionate volunteers who have the lived experience of mental health and/or substance use challenges, who have been through mental health, substance use and/or criminal justice systems, with their peers who are reentering the community from institutional settings. The emphasis of the project is to foster peer-to-peer friendships that generate hope, trust, mutual learning, stability, community involvement and growth. The volunteer’s main purpose is to support their friends through attentive listening, mutual respect, and trust. Volunteers are not responsible for traditional service provision such as advocacy or connections to services. Fostering a nurturing friendship is their only responsibility. If a friend expresses a need for housing or medical services, the volunteer should bring these issues to supervision whose resources can help.

DESIGN: The Friendship Project (TFP) works as a complement to traditional therapies for people in recovery from mental illnesses, substance use disorder and emotional challenges. Screened, trained, monitored and caring volunteers provide social support through friendship, by being positive role models, and by providing an attentive ear to all that a friend has to say. TFP matches a referred adult client with a community volunteer and peer in a one-to-one friendship. Friends meet for at least one hour per week.

TFP makes its friendship matches based on gender, age, identity, shared experiences and interests.

Meetings with TFP friends occur via telephone, text, chat, zoom etc. or even PenPal via email or snail mail, whatever friends are most comfortable doing. Although it is beyond the scope of The Friendship Project, friends may opt to meet together in the community, in natural and safe environments.

Volunteers will have biweekly meetings with supervision. Supervisors will help volunteers to work through any difficulties in relationship-building and to find solutions if friends want to be connected to services such as a housing or medical program.

Volunteer Pool: There are many potential volunteers who have the will, the compassion, and the time to participate in TFP. Many potential volunteers have been waiting for an opportunity to share their strengths and compassion in support of their peers who may be struggling. Many may be current or former peer specialists. Many may have the goal of becoming peer specialists one day and the experience gained through TFP can help motivate volunteers to move toward this employment goal or simply remain a worthwhile way to volunteer their time.

Training: Volunteers cannot be trained in compassion and love for fellow human beings, which is crucial for successful friendships. Some things, however, can be gained through training such as dialogue skills, boundary-setting and trauma sensitivity. What follows are some ideas for training.

Intentional Peer Support -–Intentional Peer Support is a way of thinking about and inviting transformative relationships. Practitioners learn to use relationships to see things from new angles, develop greater awareness of personal and relational patterns, and support and challenge each other in trying new things.

The Academy of Peer Services - – is an organization that trains people who are interested in becoming certified peer specialists in mental health settings. Free modules could provide information in “essential communication skills,” “trauma-informed peer support,” “peer support in criminal justice settings,” “the historical roots of peer support,” and much more. Once volunteers register on the website, they will have access to all of these trainings with the click of a mouse.

The Wellness Recovery Action Plan® or WRAP®, is a self-designed prevention and wellness process that anyone can use to get well, stay well and make their life the way they want it to be.

NYASAP ––offers training for substance use recovery peer support.

Emotional Connecting, emPowering, and revitalizing (eCPR) -–”which involves deepening listening skills, practicing presence, and creating a sense of safety for the person experiencing a crisis.”

On the Healing Power of Friendship: