Value of Peer Support

If you are an individual who identifies as a peer—someone who has personal lived experience in recovery—chances are, you have found strength in sharing your experience with someone who could relate, or gained hope by learning from another person how they moved forward to create the life they wanted. Having open, honest, judgment-free conversations is what connects peers on a deeper level. For many peers with experience in the mental health system, talking with a person who has had similar experiences and feelings can be the spark of hope that change is possible, and that spark can lead to both making a commitment and taking actions towards positive life changes that the peer chooses. For those who have experienced peer support, the value is without a doubt, priceless.

Individuals all over the world can and do share personal stories of how peer support changes, and saves, lives.
Within healthcare systems, peer support programs—programs with peers as service providers— are an innovative and promising model to develop a healthier community. While all members of an individual’s treatment team have an integral role in providing resources, information, treatment options, and support, it is the peer providers that are changing the conversation to focus on what is strong in the individual seeking support, rather than what is wrong. Having peers involved in the evolution of the mental health system leads to a person-centered approach to wellness, rather than focusing solely on symptom reduction and compliance. Peer providers focus on living a full, thriving life, rather than simply surviving.

Research on peer support programs has shown that participation in these services yields improvement in psychiatric symptoms and decreased hospitalization (Galanter, 1988); larger social support networks (Rappaport et al., 1992); enhanced self-esteem and social functioning (Markowtiz, DeMasi, Knight, & Solka, 1996); and decreased lengths of hospital stays, as well as lower services costs overall, (Dumont & Jones, 2002). Learn more about the evidence behind peer support. To hear more first hand stories about peer support, check out the Peer Leadership Podcast.