Unique and Common Elements of the Role of Peer Support in the Context of Traditional Mental Health Services

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Abstract

Objective: The goal of this report is to clarify the unique role of peer support providers (PSPs) and define peer support as a distinct occupation in the context of traditional mental health services. Method: A systematic methodology was used to compare roles of PSPs with those of similarly situated case managers (CMs). Key informants including 12 incumbent CMs and 11 incumbent PSPs participated in focus groups and responded to a set of prompts based on the Discovering a Curriculum (DACUM) methodology (Norton & Moser, 2014), an innovative approach to identifying and comparing duties and tasks associated with distinct occupations. Task analyses were validated through a survey of 71 CM and 29 PSP subject matter experts, including workers, supervisors, trainers, and consumers. Results: The results revealed a variety of duties and tasks specific to the PSP occupation, particularly within the domains of empowering consumers, promoting consumers’ educational growth, and supporting personal development. The results also reveal areas of overlapping responsibility between PSPs and CMs, including aspects of each role that promote consumers’ development, wellness and recovery, administrative tasks, and care coordination activities. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: These findings may address the role ambiguity that currently challenges efforts to establish peer support as a legitimate service in the field of behavioral health. In addition, the findings demonstrate how the roles of PSPs and CMs could be synergistic in complex organizational settings.

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