Reigniting the Flame 

‘The Art of Healing Through Peer Support’ Conference Helps Recharge Passion for Recovery Work 

From June 27th – 29th the University of Texas Addiction Research Institute and Achara Consulting held the ‘Transforming Minds, Inspiring Hope, and Changing the Narrative: The Art of Healing Through Peer Support conference with sponsorship from the Texas Health and Human Services. 

Youth Recovery Communities (YRC) attendees were hosted from June 27th – June 28th while Adult Recovery Support Services (RSS) and Texas Targeted Opioid Response (TTOR) Be Well Program attendees were hosted from June 28th – June 29th. Allowing peer support professionals at all levels to attend, learn, and bond together created a supportive and inspiring environment.  

Every day, attendees were treated to workshops with hands-on learning activities and peer discussion. They also attended large group celebrations which included speeches, song and dance breaks, and other bonding activities. The conference created a high-energy environment that was fueled by a passion for helping recovery communities.  

Valentin Cerda, a person in recovery who currently serves as a Recovery Peer Support Specialist at Behavioral Health Solutions of South Texas (BHSST), shared his experience.. On Day 2, in a large-group setting, he recalled his own story of addiction and how a recovery peer specialist helped save his life.  

“I am that example of progress in the program that everybody runs here,” Cerda said. “The RSS program has saved my life since day one and if I can just say that to the world.” 

Cerda, along with the BHSST team, came to the conference to recharge their passion for the work they do.  

“We are a valley non-profit organization there to help the community”, Cerda said. “There are not a lot of resources there in South Texas. So far, the conference has been exactly what everybody has said — the energy — just having the chance to meet every single recovery coach that you’ve seen on Zoom. There are so many stories out here, there’s so much potential to learn from each and every individual that needs to happen more often here than once a year. This will help refuel the recovery coaches in their journey.” 

The conference was full of members of the recovery community coming together to support. LaNisha Jiles helped to lead on-stage song and dance along with celebrating the many organizations that came from all across Texas to attend the conference. Her engaging energy welcomed newcomers, along with reconnecting with colleagues whom many conference-goers hadn’t seen since before COVID-19.  

“This is such a transformational experience and I hope to build a broader network, to continue to serve others in the community, to constantly and continuously improve and enhance the quality of life for those individuals and so, it’s been a while and I’m excited to be back,” Jiles said.  

Jiles serves as Senior Director of Recovery Support Services at Santa Maria Hostel in Houston, TX. With over 10 plus years as a Certified Recovery Support Peer Specialist, her experience includes serving as Program Director for Recovery ATX and as a consultant for South Southwest ATTC.  Jiles echoed what many other attendees felt at the conference, the need for a reminder of why our work is so important. 

“I just look forward to these conferences because I always get an opportunity to really just reignite that flame and bring back that momentum of why I am here and why I do the work that I do,” Jiles said.  

The Transforming Minds, Inspiring Hope, and Changing the Narrative: The Art of Healing Through Peer Support conference brought together people from all over Texas who could share experiences, and new ideas and lend support to each other along with enjoying the beautiful University of Texas in Austin, TX. We can’t wait to see you all again soon!