Glossary of Terms

Colonization: The practice of domination of another culture. Colonization is when a country violently invades another and claims the lands as its own. New inhabitants move in, displace, control and oppress people who were indigenous to the land.

Compassion: According to UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, “Compassion literally means, “to suffer together.” Among emotion researchers, it is defined as “the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.”

Critical Thinking: The disciplined process of actively processing information, with the intention of deliberately trying to suspend one’s own judgements. Critical thinking involves conceptualizing, analyzing, synthesizing, reflecting on, and/or evaluating information.

Decolonization: The process of examining oppressive beliefs about Indigenous Peoples. It’s about releasing oppressive practices, and supporting Indigenous Peoples to reclaim land, culture, language, community, family, history, and traditions that were, and continue to be taken away through the process of colonization.

Empathy: Empathy is about perspective-taking or mirroring someone else’s feelings. Empathy is about sensing someone’s feelings and imagining oneself in someone else’s shoes. Empathy doesn’t always motivate us to action, as compassion does, but it is often the first step towards compassion.

Equality: The state of all people having equal value in terms of status, rights and opportunities.

Equity: Promotes overall fairness. Fairness can only work if all people start from the same place. For people who are experiencing systemic oppression, they might need extra support to get them to an equal place of opportunity as someone not experiencing systemic oppression. In getting everyone to an equal place, some people might receive more support or resources than others.

Generosity of Assumption: Assumptions happen when we don’t know the whole story and allow our brains to fill in the blanks. Often, we make negative assumptions about people or situations. Generosity of assumption means that we extend someone the most generous interpretation of their intent, actions, or words

Holding Space: This means to be with someone without expectations or a desire to fix or save. It means that we choose to be fully present without taking the other person’s power away. When we are holding space for someone, we are humble, and we mindfully challenge any judgements or assumptions we may find stirring up for us.

Humility: This means we approach a person or situation knowing that there is much we don’t know or understand, and we are not better than anyone else.

Identity-first language: This is common with specific disability communities. Identity-first language was born from the Disability Pride movement, because it is something to be embraced, proud of, and not shamed for. The descriptor is in the identity category. For example, “Autistic” is preferred over “person with autism.” “Deaf person” is preferred over “person with deafness.”  

Implicit bias: Judgements, prejudices, and attitudes that live deep in our subconscious and affect our actions and our understanding.

Intentional: Done with purpose–deliberate and consciously.

Lived Experience: In the context of mental health and substance use, this means having personal lived experience with a mental health issue, substance use, and/or trauma issue.

Peer-Delivered Services: Many services can be delivered by people with lived experience, while holding a peer, or mutual approach. These services aren’t always formal peer support. Some examples of peer-delivered services are employment counselors, substance use counselors, job coaches, peer navigators, clerical workers, or organizational leaders.

Person-centered: This is a process of service delivery that puts the person receiving services in the center of their own care. This means professionals see the person as an expert on their own life. This means that professionals continually keep them at the center of all decision-making that affects their well-being.

Person-first language: Puts the person before the diagnosis. This is about avoiding labels to identify a person. For example: Person with diabetes, instead of “diabetic.” Or person with schizophrenia, instead of “schizophrenic.”

Social Determinants of Health: From the Public Health Agency of Canada, “The social determinants of health influence the health of populations. They include income and social status; social support networks; education; employment/working conditions; social environments; physical environments; personal health practices and coping skills; healthy child development; gender; and culture.”

Trauma: The word “trauma” means wound in Greek. Trauma doesn’t refer to a specific event, but rather the psychological feeling of overwhelm and helplessness that may follow a traumatic event or series of events. An event is considered traumatic when our experience of it overwhelms our capacity to cope with, process or integrate it. Traumatic events can be difficult to define because the same event may be more traumatic for some people than for others – i.e. they may overwhelm. Trauma can result from a single distressing event (e.g., car crash, violent assault, death of a loved one, war or natural disaster) or from a long-term, chronic pattern (e.g., ongoing childhood neglect, sexual or physical abuse).

Trauma-Informed: This means that a person or agency has deliberate intention to create an environment that is very safe for anyone who has a trauma history and can be triggered and re-traumatized.

Worldview: The lens through which one sees the world, based on all their past life experiences.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Post-Secondary Peer Support Training Curriculum Copyright © 2022 by Jenn Cusick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book