Organized peer support with individuals diagnosed with mental illness builds upon naturally occurring encouragement. Maintenance of another’s wellbeing is oftentimes encouraged as a way to promote shared recovery experiences for anyone who has been diagnosed with mental illness, regardless of the diagnosis given ( as cited in Lloyd-Evans et al., 2014). This shared experiential experience is assumed to promote self-efficacy and hope and, likewise, to provide a socialization of coping strategies (Salzer & Shear, 2002).
In a thematic analysis of interviews conducted with peer-related supporters, Salzer and Shear (2002) found individuals who delivered peer support services via the principle of the helper therapy model reported that facilitating another’s recovery was something they both liked and benefited from. Such gains were noted to include a sense of empowerment, increased self-awareness, and facilitation of their own recovery (Salzer & Shear, 2002).
Over time, provision of peer support services has become an increasingly common facet of mental health services, with twenty-seven states in the United States permitting reimbursement of peer-related assistance (Lloyd-Evans et al., 2014). However, the efficacy of these services (e.g., mutual support groups; unidirectional peer-support services, peer mental health service providers) as an addendum to standard care remains in question.
Lloyd et al. (2014) conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of these peer-provided services. The investigation consisted of evaluating the effects of peer-related interventions across eighteen trials, totaling 5,597 adult participants (Lloyd et al., 2014). Participants who were included in the investigation were diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum or bipolar disorder, or were a mixed population of persons who utilized secondary mental health services (Lloyd et al., 2014). Interventions typically lasted from three weeks to two years (Lloyd et al., 2014). Interestingly, findings showed that there was little current evidence regarding the effectiveness of these services in improving outcomes in hospitalizations (Lloyd et al., 2014). However, similar to Salzer and Shear’s (2002) findings, there were some positive results for outcomes related to self-recovery, hope, and empowerment (Lloyd et al., 2014).
Lloyd-Evans, B., Mayo-Wilson, E., Harrison, B., Istead, H., Brown, E., Pilling, S., Johnson, S., & Kendall, T. (2014). A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of peer support for people with severe mental illness. BMC Psychiatry, 14(1), 1-12. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-14-39
Salzer, M. S., & Shear, S. L. (2002). Identifying consumer-provider benefits in evaluations of consumer-delivered services. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 25(3), 281-288. doi: 10.1037/h0095014
Shirreka Mackay, LPC
WKPIC Pre-Doctoral Practicum Student
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