The Power of Peer Mentorship

By Victoria Mitchell, Wood’s Homes Addictions Specialist and Kaleb Nielsen, Wood’s Homes Addictions Peer Mentor.

Who is the expert in the field of addictions? 

It has been a dream to lead an Addictions Program that recognizes past clients of the program as experts. The Addictions Peer Mentor role allows for lived experience to be front and centre. Their involvement in the work of addictions is critical to evidence-informed activities. 

Having an Addictions Peer Mentor is empowering because they deeply understand the youth we serve. They apply an alternative approach to addictions and act as a confidant who motivates our clients and inspires change. 

Peer mentorship is grounded in the belief that hope and support is the starting point for enhancing wellbeing. Although everyone’s experience and journey is unique, our Peer Mentors at Wood’s Homes cultivate an environment of inclusion and belonging, inspire hope, and demonstrate the potential for success while relating to the challenges and stigma associated with mental illness and/or substance abuse. 

Last year, I co-wrote a blog post called Monsters Are Real, where the Peer Mentor Deseria from the Inglewood Opportunity Hub supported a group making Dream Catchers. This group was impactful, not only for the youth participating, but also for Deseria. 

Prior to her experience as the peer mentor, she was drowning in her fears, doubt, and self-sabotaging behaviours, making success seem just out of reach. Despite these behaviours, she grew from her experience as a Peer Mentor, which gave her the confidence to attend university. Deseria is now serving in the Canadian military, where she is using the skills learned in university and the confidence that she was able to acquire as the peer mentor. 

So how will this impact the Addictions Program at Wood’s Homes?   

Simply put, peer mentorship is the practical, social, and emotional support between people in a community of common interest. It is unique, offering the kind of support and practical help that one can get from others who share similar experiences. The philosophy of peer mentorship is that everyone has the knowledge of what is best for them and a strong desire to find a path towards improved health. 

The Peer Mentor supports others in finding their own inner wisdom, reigniting hope, and desire. Peer mentorship is based on relationships in which each person is considered equal, and self-determination is highly respected. It is focused on health and wellness rather than on illness and disability. 

 A Peer Mentor is: 

  • a friend 
  • a coach 
  • a companion 
  • a supporter 
  • an advisor 
  • a role model 
  • a person to talk to 


 A Peer Mentor is not: 

  • a social worker 
  • a parent 
  • a superhero 
  • a parole officer 
  • a therapist 
  • a source of money 
  • a solution to all problems 


The strengths of peer mentorship are still being explored within the Addictions Program, but I look forward to being able to help support and mirror what it can be. 

The Addictions Peer Mentor position at Wood’s Homes is supported by funds received from Bell Canada through their Let’s Talk Community Fund and Totem Charitable Foundation.