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Eating disorders

Peer support

Support provided by or between people with lived experience

What is it?

Peer support involves people drawing on their own lived experience and knowledge of recovery from an eating disorder to help others achieve improvements on aspects of their recovery. It can be the bridge between professional/clinical support (e.g. medical, psychological or dietetic) and real-life practical application of change.

Peer support can come in different forms and might be provided by someone you know personally or through a peer support worker.

What can someone expect?

Peer support aims to:

  • provide non-clinical support such as information, education, coaching and counselling to complement medical and psychological supports
  • reduce the stigma around eating disorders and normalise the eating issue experience
  • improve the experience of accessing services and supports so treatment feels collaborative rather than like it’s being done for you by a professional without personal experience
  • assist health professionals and other services by inserting recovery concepts into treatment delivery and ensuring services are person-centred (i.e. focused on a person’s strengths, not illness).

Peer support is not intended to be a replacement for medical or therapeutic intervention (e.g. GP, psychologist, dietitian). You should still seek out and maintain contact with a multidisciplinary care team to ensure your physical and mental health is being monitored by a professional on a regular basis.

Peer support might be delivered through one-on-one sessions or peer support groups. It can occur in informal settings (e.g meeting at a café), during mealtimes and through other flexible communication methods (e.g. texting). Peer support typically takes on the following forms.

  • Peer mentoring supports your recovery from an eating disorder by partnering you with a mentor who has experience recovering from an eating issue. Mentorship programs often include regular contact for a set duration (e.g fortnightly contact for six months).
  • Peer support groups provide a safe space online or in person for group-led discussions facilitated by trained peer support workers. The group discussions provide an opportunity for participants to share their experiences and participate in activities that include practical support, skill development for recovery, motivational support and connection with others.
  • Individual peer support is a safe and supported environment where a peer support worker provides practical support tailored to your individual needs. This might include applying coping skills learnt through therapeutic sessions or sharing lived experience to undertake day-to-day activities such as grocery shopping.

Peer support workers are employed in a paid or voluntary capacity and trained to draw on their lived experience to help others recover.

Peer support workers are not doctors, therapists or clinicians. They have specific training and experience, and can provide practical solutions tailored to fit your needs.

If you receive support under an eligible NDIS package, the term ‘psychosocial recovery coach’ is likely to be used in place of peer support worker.

Who is this for?

Peer support can help individuals living with eating disorders at any stage of recovery and for all types of eating issues.

Peer support may benefit you if you’re unsure about seeking professional support (e.g. doctors, health professionals). Speaking to someone with lived experience can demonstrate that recovery is possible and clear up misconceptions about eating disorders and the recovery process.

How can someone access it?

Eating Disorders Queensland (EDQ) provides individual and group peer support including:

To find information about or access EDQ’s peer support services, contact the EDQ Care Navigator by emailing, calling 07 3844 6055 or visiting the EDQ website.

The Butterfly Foundation holds virtual support groups for people across Australia that are facilitated by trained peer facilitators with lived experience of eating disorders.

You can also access informal peer support by connecting with individuals who have been through eating disorder recovery.

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