Peer Support in Adult Mental Health Services – A Metasynthesis of Qualitative Findings

OBJECTIVES: Peer support involves people in recovery from psychiatric disability offering support to others in the same situation. It is based on the belief that people who have endured and overcome a psychiatric disability can offer useful support, encouragement, and hope to their peers. Although several quantitative reviews on the effectiveness of peer support have been conducted, qualitative studies were excluded. This study aimed to synthesize findings from these studies.
METHOD: A qualitative metasynthesis was conducted, involving examination, critical comparison, and synthesis of 27 published studies. The experiences of peer support workers, their nonpeer colleagues, and the recipients of peer support services were investigated.
RESULTS: Peer support workers experiences included nonpeer staff discrimination and prejudice, low pay and hours, and difficulty managing the transition from “patient” to peer support worker. Positive experiences included collegial relationships with nonpeer staff, and other peers; and increased wellness secondary to working. Recipients of peer support services experienced increased social networks and wellness.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: The findings highlight training, supervision, pay, nonpeer staff/peer staff relationships, as important factors for statutory mental health peer support programs.