Mental health and recovery : experiences of peer support workers employed in mental health services

Mackin, Michelle (2019) Mental health and recovery : experiences of peer support workers employed in mental health services. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Rationale: The employment of peer support workers (PSWs) is intended to encourage a greater recovery orientation within mental health services. However, it is important that this does not occur to the detriment of the workers themselves. If the role of the PSW is to change the culture of services and demonstrate recovery, it is important that the role itself is beneficial to recovery. Finding out from the workers themselves how their own recovery is influenced is necessary.

Aim: Within the UK there is a paucity of research into the recovery experiences of PSWs. This study intends to add to the UK research base and to develop an in-depth understanding of how the role influences the PSWs’ own recovery.

Method: Six PSWs participated in this study. Semi-structured interviews were carried out which asked participants about their experiences of their role and how it had influenced their own recovery and their views about recovery. Interviews were then transcribed and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Findings: Three superordinate themes emerged from the study: 1) Early recovery pre PSW role, 2) Adjusting to the PSW role and 3) PSW role and recovery. It was identified that the peer support role helps to facilitate PSWs’ recovery. However, potential difficulties were highlighted within the role which may be detrimental to the PSWs’ recovery. These included other staff being uncertain and worried about the role and the workers within them, boundary dilemmas, tensions between the peer support and service values, and the potential for PSWs to become over-involved with service users. These findings are discussed in relation to existing literature and recommendations are offered.

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