Unique, confidential support available through MAP’s Peer Support Program
Written by Doron Gold, BA, J.D., MSW, RSW, CPCC, Staff Clinician at Homewood Health and coordinator of the day-to-day operations of the MAP Peer Support Program.
A growing number of members within the legal profession in Ontario are aware of the various services offered to them through the Member Assistance Program (MAP). The MAP service most frequently accessed by members is the counselling service. Members have also utilized smoking cessation, nutrition, and financial coaching programs. What many are not aware of is The Peer Support Program which is another powerful, effective offering which they may choose to access.
The Peer Support Program is about empathy and compassion. Peer volunteers, who are lawyers, paralegals, judges and students, offer themselves as a key support mechanism to be paired with individuals in the profession who may benefit from such a peer relationship. The volunteers are people who have been through their own personal or professional challenges and, having found wellness and balance, have come to the MAP offering help to colleagues who are currently going through similar and difficult experiences.
These volunteers, who have been vetted and extensively trained, lend a compassionate, non-judgmental ear to those with whom they are matched. They listen and offer support to a legal professional who may otherwise feel stigmatized by mental health, addiction, career or other challenges. We know that legal professionals going through personal or professional difficulties often isolate and judge themselves harshly, and hesitate to reach out for help when they may need it most. Peer volunteers are kind and understanding and offer a model for recovery as well as an antidote to stigma and isolation.
Another cornerstone of the Peer Support Program is confidentiality. Without the assurance of complete confidentiality, members would avoid seeking the help they need, fearing that their sensitive personal issues may be shared with third parties such as the Law Society. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Rules of Professional Conduct specifically exempt peer volunteers from disclosing a member’s identity and personal information. Peer volunteers hold member confidentiality as sacrosanct. Your wellness and healing is their only focus.
Peer volunteers do not act as counsellors, therapists or as legal counsel. Their interactions can be face to face over a cup of coffee or by phone from another part of the province. The peer relationship may be a one-time interaction or it may extend over many conversations. The relationship is designed to best serve the unique needs of each member.
MAP clients who have engaged with a peer volunteer noted profound relief and comfort, and sometimes even surprise at the effectiveness of the peer approach. When one realizes that lawyers or paralegals are not immune from personal distress, mental illness or other issues, and that they are not the only ones in the profession who encounter difficult and challenging scenarios, the relief and healing which can follow is significant and life changing.
If you are feeling isolated, in distress or feel that your life is out of control, the MAP is here to support you. If peer support appeals to you as a recovery tool, you are encouraged to call the MAP at 1-855-403-8922 or visit the MAP website at www.myassistplan.com and request a peer volunteer for yourself.