Peer Narrative Practice: Learning Together and Working Side by Side by Hamilton Kennedy

This video explores the experience of combining two different therapeutic approaches, Narrative Therapy and Intentional Peer Support. It aims to explore the huge value of the peer relationship. The peer relationship is when both or all parties in the relationship have had some similar or like experience. It follows Hamilton’s experiencing of implementing peer narrative practice with people like Hamilton, that is young people who have been admitted, often forcibly, to psychiatric hospital. 

It asks of us to consider; is there merit to establishing a more equal relationship? Should the places we work for have peer workers? What is possible when there is a peer relationship? 


Hamilton is a consumer academic at the University of Melbourne. Hamilton has also been a consumer peer support worker in a youth psychiatric hospital. This means they are employed on the basis of their experience of what’s commonly known as ‘mental illness’. Hamilton considers themselves crazy. This makes possible the work they do. 

Published on 1 March 2019. 

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. fiona schultz

    Thank you Hamilton,

    You’ve given me a whole lot to think about, I have nothing coherant yet, but things to think about are a marvellous starting point.

    You are so open, honest and sincere – all things to admire.

    Cheers, Fiona

  2. Judith Thomson

    Hi Hamilton,
    It was a privilege to get a glimpse into your work and I particularly appreciated your explanations of peer support and narrative therapy as a dual response to relating through ‘double listening/story telling. I am currently setting up support groups for Silicosis affected individuals and am hoping to help increase their confidence and feel this approach may be transferable. I too aim to work in a hopeful way,
    Best wishes Judith (BSW).

  3. Nicky Bright

    Hi Hamilton,

    Thanks for sharing this. I am in my final year of BSWk and am currently co-chair of LEAP (lived experience academic programme) in QLD. I can relate to the complexities involved in exploring the idea of combining two perspectives. I wonder if we may be able to have an opportunity for connection somehow. I would really value from hearing more about your practice experience and journey. I will be working on a pilot peer support project at the University I attend in Queensland at the start of 2020. I shall leave my email details. Look forward to making a connection.
    Many thanks,

  4. S. Robertson

    Thanks for your interesting talk. I am interested in your ideas on the following: How do clinical perspectives found in mental health treatments and systems impact on the relationships in peer work, mutuality and IPS? What are your ideas about future possibilities for peer work, please? Thanks!

  5. Steven Morgan

    I loved this! Thanks Hamilton.

    1. Hamilton Kennedy

      Hi Steven! So glad you enjoyed it.


  6. Lorna Downes

    Finally got around to watching this Hamilton and so glad I did. I particularly resonated with your reflections on privilege and learning as a barrier to feeling like a genuine peer and vice versa. I think this is rich material for self-reflection and for co-reflection.

    1. Hamilton Kennedy

      Hi Lorna,

      So lovely to hear that you have watched this. I hope it and the associated ideas can prove useful for other consumer and carer workers in the future.


  7. Haragirimana claver

    Thank you Hamilton Kennedy, i am ex psychiatric user, here in Rwanda we have many cases of mental disorders because of Genocide was happen here, but the problem is to reintegrate the mental patients when are discharged from the hospital, only we, as victim or survivors of mental illness, took an initiative to do our best, i thank you for what you did, and wish to collaborate with you, our created association of mental patients here is named OPROMAMER

    1. Hamilton Kennedy

      Hello Claver!

      I too am wishing to collaborate with you! Thank you for the work you are doing in Rwanda. Hope to hear from you soon


  8. Michelle

    Thank you for this talk Hamilton, your openness and honesty and your sharing really touched me.

    I am currently completing a Diploma in Counselling and one of the Units is on Narrative Therapy which led me to the Dulwich Centre and to your talk.

    I have also considered doing Peer Support Work and found your reflections very interesting and they are definitely giving me food for thought. I too have spent time in a psychiatric hospital. Coming to terms with it rocked my world and turned it upside down. I am starting to see with the help of my psychologist what my experience has to offer others.

    I also like Catherine, feel that lived experience in a therapist actually gives you more empathy and understanding.

    Again thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Hamilton Kennedy

      Hi Michelle,

      I am deeply touched by your appreciation. I initially studied social work, but was drawn to peer support work because of the freedom and potential benefits of it. My thoughts are that my experiences with the mental health system would be useful and meaningful no matter which path I had taken. I should think they would be the same for those like us.

      Our hard earned knowledges and skills are so valuable in this line of work. I hope you enjoy the rest of your studies and continue to show what your experience has to offer others

  9. Catherine Pallin

    Hi Hamilton, thankyou so much for your wholeness, your honesty and integrity. I have studied peerwork, but am yet to practise it formally. Your talk brought me so much strength that I can do this from my current position, just being a peer to work things out together. I was surprised by your comment that you couldnt be a therapist. I wish more therapists had lived experience and were in it with me. I think this would help me feel human rather than “the person with the problem” all the time.
    I have been considering studying Narrative Therapy in a few years time and wondered how it would link in to peer support. Thanks for breaking new ground in relation to this.

    1. Hamilton Kennedy

      Hi Catherine.

      I am so thankful you were able to see honesty and integrity in what was said.

      I think studying peer work can provide us with useful skills to practice in any environment!

      I too have felt very much like a person with the problem and connection with my peers has served to lessen this.

      I hope that peer relationships can influence NT and other fields going forward. We can all be a part of this.



  10. Manja Visschedijk

    Hello Hamilton

    I really enjoyed listening to your talk about finding ways to use both Intentional Peer Support and Narrative Approaches. Altbough I have little knowledge or experience with IPS, I could relate to a lot of the questions you raised about power and the politics of mental health. Later this year I am going to be experimenting with the therapist/client binary in a project in which I will join in as a participant re-engaging with longterm, hard to shift problem stories, together with a number of others, while also taking a big share of the organising and facilitating jobs. I’m hoping the shared conversations will reflect a mutual fluid shifting along the spectrum of expert and insider knowledges, rather than being locked into a fixed binary with a hard border between ‘client’ and ‘therapist’. Listening to you talk, I was reminded of the trickiness of doing this, without hiding or ignoring the real intersectional power relations shaping the shared convedsations. Knowing you are experimenting with these dilemmas too will give me heart when I find myself floundering.

    I also share your interest in the proliferation of failure identity stories and ways to subvert these. I’m quite pleased when I come across these stories nowadays, as I always find amazing treasures while rummaging in the failures heap. Its like an old school opshop where everything is jumbled in together and you always find some forgotten piece of magnificence, which can usually be taken home for a song! Thanks again! Manja

    1. Hamilton Kennedy

      Hi Manja,

      So glad you enjoyed listening to this talk. I am excited to hear about your future experimenting with transcending the traditional binary. Whilst this can be tricky as you said, I have seen over the past year your non-binary superpowers and know that they will be strong enough to overcome any trickiness.

      Whilst experiencing failure can be a challenge for myself and others they often make possible something to be magnificent to be forged. Thank you too Manja!

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